New Life Journal's Maggie Cramer asks Asheville City Councilwoman Robin Cape to share her secrets for creating successful, connected communities.
NIJ: What do you feel are the biggest issues that must be worked through by all parties to create thriving communities?
RC: The most difficult aspects of creating a thriving community are just like the most difficult aspects of creating any thriving relationship, whether it be a relationship with a close friends, family member, child or partner: acceptance, expectations, self-reflection, personal responsibility and humor.
Communities are blessed with many natural and cultural advantages, and the first step to keeping those is to recognize them and be thankful for them. The second part is to find where our individual passions connect with some need in the community and offer to put those two pieces together. The third part is to not over-react when things don't go our way every time; work for what you want, then accept and let it go if it doesn't work out. Being part of a community means accepting that there are a variety of ideas, needs and dreams. The goal is to make sure that everyone gets some of what they seek.
"We must love them both, those whose opinions we share and those whose opinions we reject. For both have labored in the search for truth, and both have helped us in the finding of it."--St. Thomas Aquinas
NIJ: In your experience, when do you most see a communication breakdown occur in community conversation?
RC: Once again, community is not much different than personal relationships. Let's see, where do I get breakdowns in conversation with those I care about? When I think I am right and insist that they think so, too, and when I neglect to listen to their concerns, thoughts and feelings on the topic. Maybe I am just too much a child of the 60s, but I truly believe that we each have a valuable perspective to share on any given topic and that there is some kernel of truth and reality that needs to be looked for and respected within each of our world views. I also think that the challenge of building a really good community is to be able to allow different perspectives equal respect without dividing into camps and sides and "fighting" for what we believe in. The world is far too fragile to use the "fight" metaphor as our major tool for problem solving. To me, that is the existential challenge of our times: to finally move away from war and fighting into collaboration, mutual respect and...