Why Communities Need Safety To Succeed
I read this short Aesop's fable about the ill-fated oxen recently in the book I am currently working through - Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek. In this book, Simon examines why some teams succeed and others don't.
And in the section of the book where he shares this fable, Simon makes the point that, organizationally, teams cannot focus on outside 'dangers' when they are focused on internal 'dangers'. In a business or nonprofit, if a team is comprised of individuals focused on ladder-climbing, back-stabbing, and gossiping than their trust is completely compromised and they won't be able to tackle the important issues facing their team.
Trust is needed for a team to succeed.
If a team feels safe with their teammates, they can focus on succeeding as a group. But when their is no trust, teammates will focus on self-preservation over the good of the team.
And I think the same can be said for communities.
Within our neighborhoods, we need safety in order to succeed.
If my neighbors and I do not have any relationships with each other - no trust or love - then it makes it very difficult for us to improve our neighborhood at all.
We need safety in our communities.
Safety from both a lack of violence AND a presence of trust.
It is only when my neighbors and I trust each other and believe that we are all working towards the betterment of our community - only when that happens - that we can then begin to address the needs of our neighborhood with any level of success.
Poverty. Dilapidated housing. Street lights. Trash. Drugs. Violence. Unemployment.
All of these are systemic issues which can only be attacked by working together.
When we, like oxen, are more focused on fighting each other (i.e. squabbling over minor grievances or refusing to get to know our neighbors), we cannot address these systemic issues.
So how do we nurture safety?
- Get to know your neighbors. Go to neighborhood meetings and host porch parties for your neighbors.
- Do neighborhood cleanups. Take one Saturday a month and focus on cleaning up different alleys and parks in the community with your neighborhoods.
- Support local, good businesses and work with your local police department to help 'relocate' or remove despicable businesses (i.e. drug dealers, strip clubs, and bars).
- Throw block parties in people's front yards (make sure they agree to it beforehand!).
- Launch a community garden in a public space to help redeem empty space and fight hunger and obesity at the same time.
The common thread of these examples? Building community through spending time together - either serving together or over food. (Food is always a great way to build bridges with other people.)
Because you never know the resources available within your neighborhood until you get to know your neighbors. Gardeners who know urban gardening best-practices. City workers who know how to work through red tape to get abandoned homes out of limbo. Handymen and women. Law enforcement heroes. Pastors. Entrepreneurs. Nonprofit workers. All of which can positively impact your neighborhood when you work together.
Like in the fable at the beginning of this post, the only way we can succeed in fighting the dangers and brokenness in our communities is when we stop fighting ourselves and work together to take down the lion.
Build trust. Love your neighbor. Nurture safety.
And we'll transform our neighborhoods in the process.
Or in the words of Aesop: "United we stand. Divided we fall."