Well, we have reached our final installment of our Create Community series. This particular topic has meant so much to me simply because community is what makes life so enjoyable. When I think about the community of people in our lives, they bring such a richness and value to the life we live. Each person brings something different: their heritage, their culture, their faith, their experiences. These things deepen our overall life experience.
As each chapter of your life begins and ends, you have hopefully found a community within each chapter. Memories of sitting in an open air restaurant my first night in the middle of Honduras still remain fresh. I had accepted my first job teaching at The American School of Tegucigalpa, Honduras as the secondary music teacher. Meeting the other American teachers was reassuring (we were certainly all in the same boat moving out of the country to Central America), but I quickly realized how much their backgrounds and experiences were going to enrich my life.
Not only did I immediately see the addiction that could come in traveling the world for work, but I realized that some people are Movers and some people are Stayers. If you are a Mover, does that mean you aren’t good at investing where you live while you live there? Are Stayers the ones who always volunteer and commit to their town?
Consider our most recent natural disasters: Hurricane Harvey and Irma and now the wildfires in California. So many of us don’t actually live in these places, but what if you did? Would you permanently leave if a hurricane destroyed your home? It might be easy to say you would leave if you have never had to make that choice. But for those who do, would you give up your neighborhood, your friends, your coworkers, your home?
Melody Warnick actually found neither Movers or Stayers to be consistently higher on place attachment. It really was a personal commitment. As she said, “Tornado? Wildfire? Crime? Blight? Sooner or later, every city struggles. What we locals do next, after the disaster, is a key measure of how place attached we really are. How loyal will we be when things go wrong?”
While interviewing people who had experienced and survived a disaster, she was delighted to see her theory of attachment continue. A professor of political science and urban affairs from Northeastern University studied the tsunami that killed almost 16,000 people in Japan in 2011. About forty minutes separated the first tremors of the earthquake from the 30 foot waves resulting from the earthquake. Most interestingly was that the death rate along the coast varied widely, some villages zero and some nearly 10 percent.
Not only were the stronger communities the ones with the higher survival rate, but because of their social cohesion, they were the quickest to rebuild. The infirm or elderly more than likely had friends, family, or caretakers who were concerned about them enough to seek them out and rescue them. Second, they had established relationships so that people knew to go find them. You usually don’t build relationships in a crisis, but before one happens so that when it does, you are looking out for each other.
Particularly for major cities, excitement and energy are often the draw, but they also can be incredibly transient. If you continue to live like you are waiting for the next thing, you certainly won’t be able to experience the true benefits of place attachment right now. Even if your current situation is for a short time, you must engage and invest to get the most out of your experience.
That being said, Americans are more mobile now than ever before. Caring for ailing family can bring you back to your hometown. A new job can take you across the country. Pursuit of a relationship may draw you to new cities. Your overall experience will completely depend on you. If you want to make the most and enjoy the full pleasure of a place, engage, invest and create wonderful memories where you are. And if you want to have good neighbors, then be a good neighbor.
- Long time Stayers: Continue to get to know your town and the people in it. Don’t neglect the newcomers. Engage with those around you. Find new ways to give back to your community.
- Transient Movers: Don’t forget your richest experience will come if you invest and give freely with the time you are given. Make the most by exploring, creating new opportunities and sharing your experience with others. The richness of your experiences will possibly inspire others to do the same.
- Those considering a move: Make a list of all the things you have loved (and hated) from each place you’ve lived. Consider place attachment behaviors (walk ability, volunteer opportunities, independent stores/shopping, beautiful nature, good restaurants, healthy political scene, creative activities and events). Choose your new home in a place that covers most of your loves if possible. Let your realtor will worry about the other things that they deem important like schools, safe neighborhoods and ability for resale.
I would love to hear your thoughts on why you have chosen to be a Stayer or a Mover. How have you engaged with your community making your attachment stronger? How has this Create Community series changed your thinking about where you live?
For the rest of the Create Community series, click here.
All quotes and facts have been directly stated from Melody Warnick’s book “This is Where You Belong.“