What makes a community? What makes this community — our community? What is the emotional connection we feel toward this place — what do we love about our community?
These were some of the key questions a group of about 20 explored during the first “Conversation About Our Community” on June 15. It was a diverse group, representative of many, though not all, the different “populations” that comprise Sequim and the Dungeness Valley — retirees, young adults, working professionals, business people and others. What emerged from the discussion, then, were the perspectives, thoughts and feelings of a multigenerational group of people with diverse backgrounds, different skills and experiences.
So when asked what makes Sequim special, this group provided answers that revealed a crucial commonality — shared sentiments about who we are as a community. And those sentiments say a lot.
Throughout the conversation two key themes kept being repeated:
• We love the friendliness and tolerance of those from many different backgrounds and places. We share a sense of neighborliness, of being open and welcoming. It’s a recognition that what we have in common, even when we differ on things, is at least an aspiration to be civil, kind, respectful, helpful, considerate in our dealings with each other.
• We love the remarkable — and in so many ways, unique — beauty of the place itself. We share a sense of connection to “the land,” a deep appreciation for, and desire to protect and preserve, our physical surroundings — the farmland and the timberland, the wilderness and the waters. It’s a shared love of a location where so many elements (even the climate) conspire to create, sustain and continuously deepen an emotional connection. It’s a sense that what we have in common, even when we differ on the particulars of why and how, is an embrace of open, uncluttered, unrestrictive spaces.
What emerged from our first conversation was, indeed, a shared sense of who we are as a community — a realization that there is much, indeed, that we have in common and that binds us together.
At the same time, what this conversation also revealed is a shared recognition that this place we love has its shortcomings, its flaws, and if we are to keep Sequim friendly and beautiful, those need to be examined and addressed honestly, openly and realistically. Far from being starry-eyed Pollyannas focused only on the good, this group also tackled head-on some of the difficult, complicated challenges facing our community.
Talks ‘come alive’
Indeed, that’s where things got exciting because the ensuing discussion came alive with ideas about how to do this. The members of this group seemed to relish the opportunity of engaging in civil discourse — of having a secure environment that encouraged listening to and sharing diverse ideas and opinions about hard, complex issues — and they took full advantage of it.
The passionate, yet civil — polite and respectful — exchanges that took place about our economy, our infrastructure, the social problems we (like many communities) face, revealed not just the capacity, but an active willingness to collaborate in finding creative solutions and innovative ways to implement them.
From suggestions for forging new alliances and coalitions focused on a particular issue to specific recommendations for how to generate greater citizen engagement, the unifying theme was clear: making Sequim even more lovable and livable is our shared goal, we can work more effectively to reach that goal and we are starting to do just that.
We invite you to share the excitement! Join us for our next “Conversation on Our Community” at 5 p.m. Thursday, July 21, at Scooters Coffee Shop, 649 W. Washington St., Ste. 3.
CommunityPlus is a group of people whose mission is to generate a series of broad, inclusive conversations that lead to a shared understanding of who we are and a shared vision of how to make our community even better. If you’d like to know more, you can contact us at email@example.com.