Raspberries and Cheese Trays

Community building isn’t just about the big things, like getting into municipal politics, or starting a new business, or accomplishing huge feats. Community building is also about every day choices: supporting local shops, hosting potlucks, saying hello to neighbours, resisting gossip, attending local events, reaching out to people who seem uncomfortable, introducing yourself to strangers, extending and accepting invitations. I want to share my gratitude for some of the things people in Fernie have done for me, small acts of kindness that had big impacts on me.

One of my best Fernie friends introduced himself to me in town almost ten years ago. He didn’t know me, and we had never met before. We ended up doing dinner at the Brickhouse, and we have been friends ever since. That’s just who he is. He is still a great friend and I still see him going out of his way to make new-to-town people feel welcome.

Shortly after arriving in Fernie my grandmother passed away (the second grandparent in two weeks). I still didn’t know many people here. The one person who I did know before moving to town (we actually originally came just to visit her for a day) arrived at my doorstep with a cheese tray and with her condolences. Suddenly, I felt less alone. I felt community.

When we first arrived in Fernie to do a season as ski bums, so many people helped us in our accommodation search, and our hunt for jobs. Fernie is full of people who want things to work out well for others, friends or strangers. The snow kept us here for a season, but the people make Fernie our home.

Several times, I have arrived home to find my driveway shovelled out by anonymous Samaritans; this happened twice this winter alone. Once, when we returned from a weekend trip away during which Fernie got its biggest snowfall in years, and we got storm-stayed in Alberta for an extra night. Another time when I arrived home, with two cranky kids in the van and dreading shovelling, a neighbour’s friend swung in with his snowplough and saved me hours of shovelling.

Community relies on volunteers. I cannot even come close to guessing the number of events I’ve participated in that relied on volunteers – Wapiti, Tears & Gears, Fernie Half Marathon, Arts Station concerts, and Griz Day events are just a few that come to mind.

The amount of stuff (furniture, kids’ used clothing, et cetera) that we have been given for free or very close to free is incredible. When people pass on their things to others, putting giving ahead of getting, that’s community building.

We have some very special people in our lives who help us with looking after our kids and cooking us delicious meals at just the right times.

When we moved into our current house, one of our neighbours gave us a dish of fresh-picked raspberries. That is community building. When another neighbour invited us to dinner, and when all our friends helped us move, that is community building. And our friend who couldn’t make it, but offered the use of his truck, and came the day before to help prepare… more community building.

Community building comes down to putting yourself out there, and to being kind to others, and Fernie is full of community builders. I have a lot of respect for people who enter local politics; it is a challenging endeavour. And my hat goes off to people willing to take the leap and start their own businesses. And I am always impressed with some of the feats accomplished by Fernie residents. Those types of large commitments certainly go a long way to building community. And so do raspberries and cheese trays.