Offer a Solution

July 3, 2018 11:40 am Published by

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A senior mentor of mine offered a gentle admonishment that continues to resonate with me more than 20 years after he spoke. More proof, that our words remain deep in the conscience of the recipient, long after we believe them to be forgotten. After listening to what amounted to my regurgitation of a political commentators diatribe as to what was wrong with a particular social policy, he opined: It is easy to see what is wrong, but dont talk about what is wrong without offering a solution.

A few years back a parcel of land across the street from our family home sold, to a developer. It had been on the market, and we, or anyone else for that matter, had the opportunity to buy it as well. Largely for reasons of lack of funds, (but partially for reasons of risk aversion) we chose not to. Upon learning who had purchased the land, our first instinct was to jointly bemoan: I hope theres not going to be a subdivision there! Potential residential intensification across the street from our home was the problem. We werent offering a solution.

Canada takes in over 300,000 immigrants annually to make up for what would otherwise be a stagnant population base. Regardless of how we feel about the social policy of immigration, we can probably agree that once we invite people into our country, we need to offer them a roof of their own. And this is where the problem begins. As the son of immigrant parents it would be disingenuous of me to be anything other than happy for the opportunity offered to newcomers. But when it comes to creating housing for those new to my town, am I open to welcoming them to my neighbourhood?

What then is the solution? Like most solutions, they start with the only thing I can control – myself. Perhaps I should be prepared to make compromises for the good of my future neighbour. Maybe I should concede, that the farmland behind me is no different than the farmland that was cleared to make room for my home. Or, perhaps I should understand, that putting up with a little shade in my backyard for a building that will save acres of greenfield from being developed is a compromise that may not be good for me, but good for my community.

Maybe I should consider a solution, and not only point out the problem.

Criticizing new housing developments without offering a solution has elitist undertones, though perhaps unintended, which admittedly I have resorted to myself. My words speak of saving the farmland, the wildlife, the vegetation and character of my community. But is my heart saying Sorry, I like it the way it is, there is no room for you?

Should that be the case, it would serve me well to remember that I too live on land that once fed us, or provided natures playground. What makes my presence upon it any less offensive than my future neighbours?
Thanks for reading,

Jeff Neumann

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