Community is All Around Us When We Open Our Eyes and Hearts

Posted on March 31, 2020
By Heather Keam

I come from a small town and know firsthand that change is not always widely accepted or embraced. But in light of this pandemic, I’ve seen our community rally together and change has happened organically and fast.

A few weeks ago, my local church had planned its annual Irish Stew night. 24 hours before the event, we got notice that large gatherings were to be cancelled or suspended. This is a big social event for our church members and community, and cancelling it meant socializing would be lost. So, we got creative.

Heathers Irish StewWe looked up public health recommendations and guidelines, and altered the dinner from sit-in to take-out. We were careful to space people apart by 2 meters. Not only did participants get a little bit of social time, they did so in a safe and healthy way, and everyone still got a meal. But community innovation did not stop there! The church was also told to cancel worship, so the Minister took to Facebook and live streamed the Sunday service.

This made me wonder if people are having difficulty finding creative ways to deepen community in this time of social distancing. I remember hearing this term and automatically stopped being social. I even slowed my communication with family and friends. I felt that I needed to go into a bubble and hide with my family. But I recently had a conversation with a co-worker who had read about re-framing it to “Physical Distancing and Social Solidarity”

What does that mean? Keeping our distance (2 meters) but committing to finding ways of being social. At Tamarack, we have been scouring the internet, talking to family, friends, and member networks to find stories of people creatively deepening community while keeping a distance. In my personal life, my husband is calls people in our community who are isolated to say hi and offer to bring groceries (we’re even giving away eggs from our chickens). I also got a message from a local restaurant giving away free meals asking people to identify those who could use those meals. Small community…big change!

During these time, I pray and hope that you all find joy in being socially creative while practicing physical distancing.

Some great stories from around the world to get you inspired:

  • Italians across the country are coming together with their neighbourhoods through music. – Watch
  • Connecting Postcards – Help to connect with neighbours who may be lonely and in need. – Learn more
  • The Anglican Church in Burford, Ontario moves cancelled services to Facebook live. – Listen here

If you have a community story that you want to share, I would love to hear from you. Please email me at

Community Building, Heather Keam, Cities Deepening Community

Heather Keam

By Heather Keam

Heather works with municipalities and organizations to build strategies that put people at the center using Asset-Based Community Development. With over 22 years of experience in community development, she uses an ABCD approach to center people and belonging in the development of community plans and strategies through coaching and training staff teams, facilitation, and writing about ABCD and Belonging. She has a passion for the power of people and believes that people and communities are the solutions to local problems. She believes that we need to build a sense of community belonging so that people are connected to their community, and their place within it and get involved in decision-making. She also believes that municipalities need to shift the way they show up in community from doing “for” to supporting communities to do themselves.

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