This year I learned the difference between a city and a community and I’m happy to say that I finally feel connected to a true community.
As I attended SAIT Polytechnic in Calgary, I often had to travel outside of my comfortable southwest neighbourhood for interviews. I’ve had family in the city my whole life, and thought that I had a good sense of the ‘community’.
I didn’t realize that until the summer break between my first and second years when I came back home to Red Deer.
In Calgary, I would drive around the city to areas I had no idea even existed, and truthfully would probably never need to be in again.
I knew the southwest because my family had lived there my whole life, and a little bit of downtown.
The rest was a totally different city to me. It felt strange to drive through a town that seemed so unfamiliar, even though I’d spent years living there myself.
When I had interviews, I often felt as though I was impeding on someone’s oh-so-tight schedule, and found that the offices and buildings I went into were not nearly as warm as those in Red Deer. I’m not saying every interview was cold and terrible, but generally speaking, I often felt rushed, and noticed that not many people knew what was going on in the areas outside of their own.
The more I work in Red Deer and Lacombe, the more I love these places. I’ve had several interviews where people tell me that they enjoy their job that much more because they know their customers and clients as part of their community.
They feel accountable to these people and generally have a lot of pride in the city in which they reside.
Lacombe especially has a great sense of community. Each time I introduce myself at an interview, people comment on the efforts of our Lacombe editor, Brian Vossen, regarding how hard he works to make a genuine connection with the local businesses.
I’ve had people come into my office and personally compliment me on an article, or email me to welcome me to part of the news team and as a new part of Lacombe. The very first day I worked in Lacombe, I was introduced to members of the fire and police departments, members of City Hall and given a tour of the town.
As I explored Lacombe this weekend taking photos of Lacombe Days, I was invited to take part in a community painting, and thought it was such a beautiful idea.
I love that citizens are so involved with the pride and development of their city. I enjoy the familiarity and welcoming nature when I walk into a business for an interview.
Red Deer has been just as welcoming.
I find that even as a bigger city, there is a sense of connection here, regardless of the great diversity in residents. When I introduce myself, I don’t feel rushed or unwelcome.
I often end up chatting with interview subjects simply because I am genuinely interested in their ideas, views and how they are a part of this community.
Working between Red Deer and Lacombe is something I consider to be a privilege. I think these cities are a fantastic way to build a rapport and hopefully, a readership, because I know that people are interested in what is going on around them.
When I cover events in either city, I’m often greeted by members of other news groups and am treated very kindly by the professionals and citizens of the area.
I’ve found that this new sense of community I have really engages me to do my best for every piece of work I create. I feel like I owe my community the respect and pleasantries that are extended my way, and I want to be known as a member of these communities.
To each person who has helped create that sense of welcoming, thank you. I truly believe that community value is something each city, town or metropolis ought to seek out from its residents.
It makes a world of difference to be proud of where you reside, where you work and where you grow.