I have lots of conversations across the generations from my 97 year old neighbor to my 3 year old grandson and everyone in between. The older people remember a time when ‘everyone knew everyone’ and if the community decided they needed a school or a park, people would show up with wagon loads of lumber and food and hammers and build a school or a park on the land donated by one of the citizens. This is a totally foreign concept to those under thirty. If a community needs something now, we say “They should….” And we wait to see if they do or don’t.
There are good reasons for this in some cases, but not nearly as many cases as we think. If we make our dependence too high on “they”, the “We” becomes diminished. When “We” doesn’t have to do anything but pay taxes and complain, “We” also doesn’t have the need to interact with neighbors. In fact, this can lead to “I don’t want to bother my neighbour’, something I have heard many times when either the “I” or “neighbour” was in need of help. Instead “We” mind our own business and leave to the “They should…” to take care of our neighbour or ourselves.
The result of this is to professionalize and institutionalize our problems; problems like old age, mental illness, sickness, or poverty which never really solve the problems because the most important ingredients are missing. Love, meaning, and belonging.
When this process plays out to its fullest, our community becomes a place where “I” live and provides “I” with a supply depot. Although “I” can get food and other supplies – all the needs except for the most important needs – the needs to belong and have meaning.
Great Britain’s solution to this evolving problem is to create another “they” They have appointed a Minister of Lonliness.
The Happy Community Project’s solution to this is “let’s get together and do things together” and perhaps in the process “We” will remember. By creating projects where “We” can do things together, perhaps we will remember how to give all our citizens belonging and meaning.
The Happy Community Project is a process filled with vision, process and structure nuanced together into elegance. Simple in concept, effortful to implement, powerful in results.