The Merriam Webster Dictionary’s definition of community is this: “a unified body of individuals: such as the people with common interests living in a particular area or persons of common and especially professional interests scattered through a larger society”. This definition is...a little wordy; and not really something that seems to describe Mission—ironically enough the definition of community does not feel as inviting as a community should actually be. Today, we want to talk about the expectations and realities of what it means to be a part of a community. If it’s not some white-picket fence dream where everything magically turns out okay without any hard work whatsoever, then what is it?
To do that, we’re going to start by looking at Scott Peck from In The Different Drum: Community-Making and Peace. He talks about how in times of crisis, a strong community can be built almost by accident just by everyone working towards the same goal—we definitely felt a bond between us because of our shared Covid struggles. But how do we get such a strong community when the world is no longer ending? Well, Peck says that it involves 4 stages:
“Pseudocommunity: When people first come together, they try to be "nice" and present what they feel are their most personable and friendly characteristics.”
This sounds like a big word but it’s really just a natural response for all of us. You’ve probably heard the idea of ‘making a good first impression’; this is the same thing. No one wants to walk into a meeting where they don’t know anyone and act like they haven’t had enough sleep. In the same way, you wouldn’t want to move to a new city and insult the mayor. We start with a mask on to hide any of our inward flaws. While this makes it easy to meet people, you can’t build a lasting relationship on it.
“Chaos: People move beyond the inauthenticity of pseudo-community and feel safe enough to present their "shadow" selves.”
Phase 2 in Peck’s theory is an important one. It is the time when we come to know our friends and neighbours and make the decision to be our most authentic selves. The masks come off and we open ourselves up to our fellow community members.
“Acceptance: ...when all people become capable of acknowledging their own woundedness and brokenness, common to human beings”
This is very similar to the earlier stage but it goes beyond revealing that we aren’t all perfect people and moves into acceptance. In Mission have we not all accepted that we’re all imperfect people? We’re all just out here trying our very best to make this city the best place to live in the world. There’s a reason why Mission is becoming such a desirable place to live!
“True community: Deep respect and true listening for the needs of the other people in this community.”
We would argue that Mission has accomplished this final stage of community. During the height of the pandemic, the Mission Chamber made great efforts to make sure that we were listening to businesses and what they needed. We hosted virtual coffees with city representatives that were more than ready to listen to their communities. There were seminars that taught businesses how to excel in times where such a thing seemed impossible. We even brought back our Business Walk which let us get a real idea of how Mission businesses were doing! We wanted to show respect for our community by making sure that we were really wanting to listen.
When we listen to the needs of our cherished neighbours, that’s when we can grow. That’s why Mission, in the face of a global crisis, continued to thrive. That’s why we can look forward to the new waterfront project. Because Mission is a real, strong, community, we can look forward to change, rather than dreading it. The most important thing to take away from all this is that real communities are not all smiles and picket fences; they take real work.
Want to be a part of making Mission the best community it can be? Take up our challenge this week! Mark it down in your calendars to attend the next Mission Chamber of Commerce event. You can’t have your voice heard if you don’t show up! And we want to hear from you. Sign up for our newsletter so you can get all the latest updates. With that, may you have an excellent week and work towards living your most authentic life in this beautiful city we call home.
Peck, M. Scott. The Different Drum: Community-Making and Peace. Arrow, 1987.
Picket Fence Photo credit to the Smithsonian Magazine