This weekend, Canada celebrates it’s 150th birthday. Now as countries go, that is pretty young, but I am proud none the less for being able to be a citizen of such an amazing country. So I am going to wear my flag and party on.
Recently I was travelling through the neighbouring town of Ladysmith, about a half hour away from the city of Nanaimo where I live and developed a bout of civic pride envy.
Ladysmith is a town of about 8200 folks and resides directly on the 49th parallel. It has a rich coal and forestry history but in recent times, it’s claim to fame is the Ladysmith Light Up Festival, held annually in the month of December where the town is festoon in bright Christmas lights.
Now, it is not unusual for towns to have an annual claim to fame event. The city where I live has been hosting the World Champion Bathtub Race for over 50 years.
But it was while I was driving through Ladysmith this last weekend that I got to thinking about civic pride and how some towns and cities just do it better. The main street of Ladysmith is decorated in Canadian flag banners and red and white flower displays in all the garden beds and hanging planters. Spanning across the street is a lighted maple leaf drape and the whole street looks decked out for a party.
Of course it is easier for a small town to achieve a unified festive look than a large city but it is the effort that appealed to me and it was the nostalgia for a simpler time that created the civic pride envy in me.
It seems like to me, that instead of unifying under one community banner anymore, society has fractioned off into unifying under special interests instead. Today we have Gay Pride, Black Pride, White Pride, societies for special interest groups such as animal rights, environmental awareness, religious sects, arts groups, sports groups and anything and everything else that you can think of. And they are all vying for a moment in the hearts and minds of the general population.
This is not a bad thing. I welcome diversity. It makes for a wonderfully rich and colourful society. But civic pride to me, is bigger than any one group. It is the glue that holds all those other organizations together in one geographical border. Civic pride says, “I live here, and I am proud of where I live.”
I live here and I am proud of where I live.
What struck me with the pride of the little town of Ladysmith was that by dressing up their town centre, they were declaring their civic pride to the world.
It’s like the home owner on your street who is house proud and always has the most beautiful yard. It shines above the norm and you can’t help but judge your property against theirs.
But then you go to a neighbourhood where the majority of the home owners are house proud and the combined effect creates a beautiful block, a small oasis nestled in the larger community that invites you in and you think to yourself, “This is nice. I’d like to live here.”
Civic pride, community pride even neighbourhood pride are becoming lost in an ever fractioning society. Where I live, service groups and clubs, were once the backbone of the city. These altruistic groups would organize and support almost all the community events and initiatives, but today, are almost all extinct. Of those festivals and events that do survive, they continually struggle to attract the willing supporters and volunteers needed to stay afloat.
We all love to come out and enjoy a parade or fun festival but nobody seems to have the time or energy to organize one.
Have we lost our civic pride? Has society evolved to the point where coming together in the spirit of community, where we rise above our personal differences and instead join together for a moment of time, as a society, who is proud of the city or town where we have all chosen to live, is no longer wanted or even needed? I hope not.
The statement, “Think globally, act locally” may never be more needed than it is today. I think of the horrific trials that the city of London has had to endure in recent weeks and how folks there have banded together as Londoners to express their resounding defiance against those that would attack their world class city. This is civic pride at its best.
So as my beautifully diverse country is about to celebrate it’s 150th birthday, I suggest to you to look inward to the community that you live in and ask yourself, “What can I do to improve the civic pride of my community?” You chose to live there for a reason, so make one of the reasons be pride of the community.
What in your community makes you proud? Leave a comment and continue the conversation.