It’s no secret that I love my community, the place where I was born and raised.
My ancestors lived for many generations in Liverpool and Queens County (now the Region of Queens) so my roots run deep here. It’s also the place where my wife and I raised our own two children so it is near and dear to us. It’s our home and while we’ve visited other places it’s always wonderful to return.
It is also the place where I was educated and where my journalism career took root so I’m thankful for the professional opportunities my community has provided me. And because my community is so important to me, I felt the need to give back so over the years I’ve invested thousands of volunteer hours into a variety of causes, chief among them education, health and tourism.
However, despite the affinity I feel toward my community I admit to pausing for several minutes recently when someone asked what I’d like my community to be like 10 or 20 years from now. I wasn’t necessarily stumped by the question, but it did cause me to ponder the future possibilities and opportunities that lay before us.
I truly believe that great potential awaits our communities here on the South Shore (and all of Nova Scotia, for that matter) and that we are on the cusp of something extraordinary. However, I also know we won’t achieve that potential if we don’t work together and harness our visions, strength, abilities and, yes, even our weaknesses so that we can deal with them. It’s very important to keep it all in perspective.
In the end, the vision that I have for my community is that it will achieve the greatness that I know it is destined to achieve. For starters, I want my community to be a place where new and innovative ideas can take root and grow, a place where everyone’s vision will be considered and given proper consideration.
The solution to our challenges may just be one crazy idea away so that’s why I think it is imperative for all of us to embrace and nurture new ideas when they come along. Instead of ridiculing someone’s idea because it’s never been tried before or simply because you don’t think it will work, it is imperative that we be supportive and offer encouragement.
Remember, many of today’s successful business and volunteer ventures started with someone’s seemingly crazy idea so never dismiss something simply because of your biases, lack of vision or inability to see the bigger picture.
With all of that being said, I still want my community to be a place where we can express our opposing or dissenting views and opinions without fear of reprisal from those with whom we disagree. I want it to be a place where disagreements can be had without fear of lash-back or ridicule, but that can only happen if those views are honest, sincere and based on legitimate arguments and not simply just because you don’t like how it sounds.
As long as those dissenting views are grounded in sound judgment and not just a kneejerk reaction to something we may not understand, then we should be able to express our opinions without feeling pressure to conform. After all, that’s what freedom of speech is all about.
Looking ahead to the future, I want my community to be a warm and welcoming environment for people who come here from other places, be it from another area of Nova Scotia, another province or another country. We must keep an open mind about those who choose our community as their home and as a place to do business. Let’s invite them into the fold and help them put down roots. Let’s help them understand our way of life while at the same time understanding their beliefs and traditions.
Into the future, I want my community to be a place where we treat our neighbours with respect and dignity without being judgmental. We need our community to be a place that allows people of all races, nationalities, religions and sexual orientation to be who they are. This is imperative if we are going to see our communities grow and prosper.
Also into the future, I want my community to be a place that treats our senior citizens with the respect and dignity they deserve. We can learn a great deal from those who came before us and we would do well to tap into that wisdom and experience. After all, there is no one better to teach us than those who have already experienced the trials and tribulations of life than those who have lived through them.
As we chart a course for the future, it is also imperative that we understand our past because those roots keep us grounded. We can learn from our history and there is no better way to connect with our past than through our senior citizens. Our elderly citizens are an important resource that often goes underutilized, but we must change the focus and make them part of the conversation.
We ought to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity and ensure that our senior citizens are recognized for the role they played in laying down the foundations of our communities. I want my community, then, to be a place where mutual respect and understanding between all age groups is an everyday occurrence.
Likewise, I want my community to be a place that fosters youthful vision and allows young people to be part of the solutions. Let’s call it the great age divide, but far too often, I believe, we dismiss the younger age group simply because we don’t understand them. We must break down these barriers and try to understand that while our views may differ, we’re still in the same boat and in the end, we must all live together.
Furthermore, we must accept that today’s younger generation will someday be the decision makers and we will depend upon them to maintain and build our community for future generations. It’s the cycle of life perpetuated.
Through all of this, I want my community to be a warm and inviting place for those who are here by birth and those who are here by choice. I want my community to be a place where businesses flourish and prosper and a place where volunteers are recognized for the excellent work they do and the contributions they make. And I want it to be a safe nurturing environment for every resident, no matter his or her demographic.
This is what I want my community to be and I’m sure everyone on the South Shore wants their same for their own community.
I believe many opportunities await us. I believe our communities can be as strong or as weak as we make them, but the simple fact remains that we can control the future if we work together and support one another, or at least that’s the view from here.
Vernon Oickle was born and raised in Liverpool where he continues to reside with his family. He has worked for more than 30 years in community newspapers on the South Shore and is the author of 28 books.