Those who pay close attention to my Twitter and Facebook bio, or who have received an email from me, may have noticed that my ‘tagline’ is “creating community in the urban desert.” This evolved from “lost in the urban desert when I first arrived in Phoenix to ‘finding my way through the urban desert as I began to connect with others.
In recent months, I have given a lot of thought to what my passion is. When I started digging, I came up with three main areas that I keep returning to: my background in public policy, my interest for urbanism and my exploration of social media. After sleeping on these for a couple of nights and tossing them around in my mind, a common thread emerged: Community.
Many of you will see this as a given, in fact I’ve been called a community activist and community leader for a while now, mainly for my organization of Jane’s Walk, CenPho Camp and other similar events like the upcoming Park(ing) Day.
However, I never really bought into these labels. I was doing the things that I do for myself, to better my life. Any community benefits were secondary to my desire to create the type of city that I wanted to live in. You may say that my inner Gordon Gecko was in charge
But as I’ve talked with people who have been part of these events, I have realized that they have become far larger than simply an outlet for my personal ambitions. They have become an opportunity for people to connect to each other and deepen their connection to the place where they live. They are about building “community” into everyday life. These events not only have provided an outlet for the incurable urbanist inside me, they have offered opportunities for others to connect to one another in a deeper, more meaningful way.
This observation is on target with what the Knight Foundation discovered with their interesting Soul of the Community research: that how attached we feel to our community matters. We feel more attached when we have opportunities to connect with others in our communities and feel good about our physical surroundings—how our community looks and feels.
Thus, after much reflection, I am beginning to accept the title of community activist or leader. After all, a community is little more that an empty shell without tangible activities and leadership, and I am more than glad to help!