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Oct 30, 2011

Role Mother

I've been thinking a lot about community lately, primarily because of two things going on in my life, one at work and one at home.

At home, we've been having a major discussion about whether we renovate our house to sell or renovate it to stay.  A major determining factor is how happy we are with our current neighbourhood.  The more we think about our options, the more life conspires to show us how lucky we are to be living where we are.  Sure, it's way out in the 'burbs, but we know (and like) our neighbours, which as today's Calgary Herald points out, is key to overall satisfaction with where you live. We live within walking distance of a major grocery store, medical clinic, pub, coffee shop, the community centre, several pathways and playgrounds and even the school.  The past two nights when Murray and I went out for Halloween-related festivities we had two different babysitters, both of whom live right across the street.  How's that for winning the jackpot?

So everything on the "checklist" for a good community is there.  But what I'm paying more attention to now are the intangibles.  Like the fact that if I'm ever in a tight spot I can call my neighbour across the street, or my neighbour next door, or the ones that live a few blocks away and any one of them will be here in minutes, ready and willing to help. It's comforting, and that feeling - more than anything - is what is makes our neighbourhood feel like Home.     

At work, the Mayor's Committee on Civic Engagement just launched 3 Things for Calgary. 3 Things is designed to get individuals more involved with their communities.  It's not about becoming President of the Community Association or spearheading a major fundraising drive (although one could certainly do that if they liked), but about asking ourselves a fairly simple question: How can I use my time and talents to make our city a better place? And once we have the answer ourselves, we encourage the people we know to ask themselves the same question. 

So as I've been trying to determine my 3 Things, I've been looking at my community, at my neighbours, and wondering what little things I can do to contribute to neighbourhood life.  I don't have time for major volunteer commitments now, but that doesn't excuse me from my responsibility to my community.  It was in this context that I read about a new program called Role Mothers, that matches mothers with volunteer roles that fit within their busy schedules. From what I can gather, this is a program with a lot of potential to create an entire generation of Calgarians who will contribute to building a better city.

The name "Role Mothers" couldn't be more apt.  Research has shown time and time again that family behaviours are one of the major influences on whether an individual will be involved in their community as they grow older.  I know that my own parents' involvement in civic life was a major influence on me.  We always talked about politics at the dinner table, and were encouraged and supported through all of our volunteer commitments. Put simply, I just haven't known that it could be any other way.

That's why it has always been very important to me to try to instill as much of that responsibility in my own kids.  I know they're young, but to me that's a reason to be engaged, not an excuse to sit it out.  We take our kids with us to vote and explain to them why we're doing it.  When I was working on the mayoral campaign last fall, we would go on road trips around the NW Calgary delivering lawn signs, and Gavin even "helped" to put them in the ground.  Last week, both kids helped fill a bag of non-perishables from our pantry to donate to the food bank and this afternoon Gavin went with Murray to drop off some baby items to a young mom who could use some help.

I'm not saying any of this to toot my own horn. I want to show how easy it is to get involved with your kids. It's never to early for them to realize that they are part of a wider community, and to develop a sense of responsibility to the world around them.  Together, we can all create communities that we'll never want to leave.

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