Community is Key…

Good Morning and Happy Halloween or Friday…however you wish to call it. I am going to share a piece I wrote for my Leaders Under 40 class last week and I feel is appropriate for today’s blog post. Community is key. And why we choose to live where we live is oh so important. I hope you enjoy…

Session #5 for our CBI LU40 class was entitled “Connecting to the Community” and took a look at where we lived and provided us with a chance to view data about the neighborhoods we chose to inhabit. The key word in that last sentence was “chose” because we all make choices based on our personal capabilities, preoccupations and experiences. Our geographical choice of dwelling is no different.

The day began with Tom Warshauer, Manager of Neighborhood/Business Services for the City of Charlotte, showing a clip from Ted Talks. The clip highlighted a speech by Chimamanda Adichie and she was using the contextual framework that exposure is the greatest gift we can give to ourselves and others. In that same vein, as it pertains to our communities, we must not be closed off and continue to be intentional in our choices. Tom then went on to discuss the ongoing quality of life study that Mecklenburg County has done on itself. This study gives pertinent and timely data on all neighborhoods in Mecklenburg County to include economics, environment, health, safety, housing and about 75 other categories. While many of us had not heard about this study, it was great to know that it was out there and we could now share it with others.

While the information was nice, it was really the table discussions that provided the substance for the day. At each of our tables was a map with pin dots. The pin dots represented where each of the LU40 class resided [we were asked to give our zip codes ahead of time]. It was interesting to see where each of us lived and then to answer the questions of why we chose to live there and what things we valued based on that choice. My table had 3 residents [including myself] that lived within a 5-10 mile radius of each other. Our choice was work related and the things we valued were safety, low street noise and close proximity to the stores we frequented and downtown. Other members at the table had the same mind frame but chose to live in other areas of town. While we lived separate and apart, our values were the same.

Where do you live? It is such a common question. We hear it all the time but do we ever place the conversational emphasis on why we chose it or share that with others? If the story we tell ourselves is different from the perception others may have, are we less likely to share? When the story we tell ourselves is exactly what the rumor mill churns out, do we share excessively? From the conversations in the room, no matter where we were from, how we grew up or what occupation we took on after high school/college, we all valued the same things. While the price point maybe different, we all want safe, clean and equitable communities. Places where kids can roam free and attend schools that will teach them how to be bright and inclusive of others. Sidewalks or parks to ride a bike in or simply put a blanket down for romantic picnic.

Our charge as the next LU40 class is continue this dialogue and find ways to change the culture. We can do that by activating our community voice and advocating for neighborhood parity when we see there is none. We can share the stories of our communities with others so that we shatter the rumors and build a foundation of truth. We can be intentional in our venturing out and create new experiences in other places. It’s all about connection. Connection builds relationships. Relationships build trust. Trust builds community.


Keith Cradle


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