The concept is simple: bring chicken soup to a neighbour. Getting there takes some effort. Community expert Paul Born says that he was shocked to discover the world over, people are losing that deep sense of community known just one generation ago and for hundreds of generations before that. Gone are the days when children were raised by all the mothers in a neighbourhood; men got together to build a barn; families went to church in their Sunday best; and people knew the names of everyone on their street. The soup is symbolic of recreating those relationships of yesteryear — even knowing that a neighbour is sick, likes soup and would feel comfortable accepting such a gift is only possible if the groundwork has been laid. A relationship has to be in place long before the gesture of bringing soup.
Based in Waterloo Ontario, Born suggests this is a simple solution for the distance that has been growing between neighbours and within communities. Spending time together socializing creates an investment in others that is a learned skill — finding out how other people see things and listening to each other’s stories creates a sense of belonging which is missing in many people’s lives today. Families used to be larger, and stay living in the same area instead of moving hours away. More people used to attend church services and knew that they would be married and buried in the same place. Commitment resulted. With commitment comes inclusion.
Born’s theory is that people who feel a sense of belonging have more joy and their communities are happier. He suggests creating new groups to belong to; volunteerism and neighbourhood block parties both work to do this because seeing the same people on a regular basis develops a social resilience. The more people interact, the stronger the familiarity becomes. He told the story of some of his neighbours plowing the street with snow blowers so another could get to chemotherapy. This happened because they had already been getting together regularly, knew one another and, instead of being strangers, the street became like one big extended family. Everybody cared this man to his medical appointment and when the city wasn’t there in time to clear the snow, they did it themselves for one of their own.
He doesn’t suggest putting off this investment of time — it’s not the sort of thing that can wait until one is 65 to start. This is a skill that needs to be practiced. It takes time and training to build that sense of community; nobody wants to be all alone in a nursing home having regrets about nurturing more friendships.
He suggests plenty of ways to nurture relationships, from community gardens to organizing buying groups, potlucks and family movie nights.
“Some people say that we must deal with reality and then, for some reason, they start to share all the reasons why things cannot get done. Well the reality is the only way things get done is when we pull together, stay positive and harness the positive energy around us. The people of Nakusp love the place — and are very talented that is clearly evident,” Born wrote in an email interview with the Arrow Lakes News.
Participants from all age groups attended the gathering on Tuesday, September 30, at the Arena Auditorium. Organized by the Nakusp and Area Development Board, Chairperson Laurie Page took the mic to thank those who attended, and Born for his talk. The nearly 100 attendees were treated to two musical performances by Pat Dion on guitar. The folks from Sufferfest put on an intermission spread including desserts and fresh fruit while participants socialized. Born gave away 100 personally autographed copies of his book Deepening Community, Finding Joy Together in Chaotic Times.