jenna morton she said times transcript

She Said: Why Moncton

You start with one small idea.

Maybe it’s thinking someone should paint something interesting to look at on a blank wall. Maybe it’s deciding to write something uplifting on a rock and hide it for someone else to find. Maybe it’s handing out candy canes to strangers on the street.

You do it, and it resonates with someone. It makes them think of something they want to do, to spread a little creativity and kindness around them. Before you know it, six degrees of small town separation has created a festival, a social movement, and a community building initiative. A few more people add their talents to the mix, and suddenly your small idea has captured national and international attention and is drawing people to your community.

Festival Inspire. Happiness Rocks. Project Nice List. #BeccaToldMeTo.

It is in these shared experiences that a community starts to solidify its identity. It is how we’re defining Moncton’s why. And that is what is going to help us thrive.

I’ve written before about the importance I believe pride of place has in creating strong communities. I once asked you why you choose to live here, and you shared so many beautiful stories with me. It wasn’t lists of economic growth statistics or dreams of a downtown events centre or the bilingual workforce. It was stories about neighbours who support you, nature that nurtures you, and culture that speaks to you. The rest, the waterfront revitalization and the economic opportunities, are what builds from this why.

I’ve been thinking about all this again as I make my way through Dar Williams’ new book, What I Found In A Thousand Towns. The book is a bit of love letter to small communities from the musician; she shares her insights on the common factors that bind together the towns and small cities she sees thriving on her cross-country tours. Her descriptions bring Moncton to mind for many: a place with indoor and outdoor spaces that “naturally maximize the number of good interactions in a town,” projects that “build a town’s identity … by attracting the passions and skill sets of people who are like-minded in some ways but very different in others,” and “the ability … to incorporate every willing citizen’s contributions.”

Williams writes about seeing, again and again, towns where “everything starts to shift into more clarity, more resilience, more goodwill, and more pride” until “people actually sit and eat ice cream on the benches eerily empty for years.”

It’s our time to eat ice cream, folks. There is momentum building in Moncton. The kind that begins with one small act and, slowly but surely, helps a community define itself.

Mayor Dawn Arnold has been talking and sharing this week about “finally getting to the essence of ‘Why Moncton’.” I’m so excited to know this is a focus of hers and City staff; I think spending some time focusing inward and truly identifying why people choose to call Moncton is the key to keeping our momentum and becoming known as a place that people are proud to call home.

Moncton makes all kinds of lists and ticks all kinds of boxes that appeal to people and businesses looking to relocate, but it’s our why that will tip things in our favour. Sure, we’re the best place to buy real estate in the country, the fastest growing area east of Saskatchewan, and a geographic hub. But it’s that harder to qualify community identity that really makes us stand out.

So, let’s hear it. Why do you live here? Why should someone else choose this place? What makes Moncton stand out among a thousand other towns? Share it.

A version of this post appeared originally in the Times & Transcript. Click here for more She Said columns.

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