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Community...

Paul MacCormack

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We are all part of communities. I am a family member, a citizen of my small town, I am an Islander, a Maritimer and a Canadian. You can say similar yet different things about yourself. Whether it’s at the family level, within our surrounding neighborhoods or even based on our geographic locations; we are all part of a something bigger than just ourselves. At the macro level we are also part of the larger human community and even the community of all beings that makes up this planet. We all are inextricably interconnected in this life because we need each other to survive.

Within our turf industry, our affiliations with community can take many forms. We have the TurfNet group, GCSAA, CGSA, BIGGA, and the many other national and provincial/state level associations. Bringing it down to the micro level we also have small groups of Greenkeepers who gather informally or chat frequently by phone or via the occasional visit. Any way you cut it, these communities are essential for our well being and sense of connectedness.

Any way you cut it, these communities are essential for our well being and sense of connectedness.

I have been incredibly fortunate over the past year to visit some of these associations, and I can tell you with confidence that despite geographic differences we are not that different at the group or individual level. I have had the privilege of witnessing first hand turf workers coming together, for the exchange of knowledge, support and friendship. The energy and sense of connectedness from such gatherings is palpable. On many different levels there are bonds forged which go far deeper than simply growing grass; and this is a very good thing.

When we gather as a turf community, it also serves to remind us about the wider reach of the industry on the planet as a whole. When one segment of our industry researches or creates something new, it can have far reaching impacts on the rest of the wider turf community and beyond. Many times these repercussions are positive, but not always. Sometimes we can be so focused on the hype surrounding the next emerging technology that we can forget to ask whether we needed it or not.  As a community, it can be helpful for us to occasionally step back and critically examine the trajectory of the industry and where it fits into the larger human experience. Is this technology/action beneficial for the wider ecosystem?  Am I causing the least harm possible in my agronomic choices? After all, to slightly tweak John Donne’s famous phrase “No human is an island...”, nor is any segment of this industry independent from the world at large.

As a community, it can be helpful for us to occasionally step back and critically examine the trajectory of the industry and where it fits into the larger human experience.

It can also be helpful as a group to step back and honestly listen to and create space for those who feel excluded from the mainstream community. Often times, through no direct malicious intent by the dominant majority, parts of our community can feel excluded or left behind. Sometimes the exclusion occurs because there are those who cannot afford to attend many of our gatherings due to the financial situations at their facilities. Other times the sting of exclusion is felt by the minorities within our community. Minorities being marginalized due to race and/or gender are the biggest subgroup within the Greenkeeping community, and we need to realize that it’s a real issue that needs to be addressed by the group as a whole. This unintended discrimination can leave these people on the periphery of much of the important decision making that steers the community as a whole. In this regard we can and should do better.

Building on a communities’ strengths is vital. Realizing that we all have blind spots is critical. As a collective we need to remember that our core strength is our ability to support each other. Whether it’s via sharing of knowledge, lending a helping hand in times of need, or simply being a listening presence, our ability to be there for each other binds us in a way that most industries would envy. But we cannot rest idly and ignore those voices from the margins. We need to open our hearts and minds and allow for new ways of doing things to replace outdated traditions and entrenched views.

...our core strength is our ability to support each other.

In a real sense, all life is interrelated. All men (and women) are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.  --  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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Its an easy word, Community. But its a harder path. I happen to really need it. Thanks for writing this.

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It is a complex word with many different layers. But at its core it may not be as complicated as we think. Kindness, compassion,  helping out when you can...its all not that fantastical. Its fear that seems to shut us down...either collectively or individually. And this fear grows into all sorts of unfortunate things like nationalism, protectionism and such.

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