Having served as a mayor of Augusta for nine years I’ve become fascinated by cities in their ability to simply be a connection point for human lives. It’s been my observation that a sense of place and belonging serves to elevate the human spirit and that connecting with others on common ground, whether it be at a festival, a ballgame or on a simple walk in a park, has the effect enriching our daily lives. Cities, with their diversity of cultures, their elclectic ways and their traditions, become melting pots in which each ingredient added brings a special flavor all its own with the whole of the dish being greater than the sum of it’s parts.
Where some would see cities to be divided along cultural, socioeconomic or political lines I’ve come to truly value the mix of ideas, passions and more common issues than differences as elaborate and ornate threads that when woven together properly build a stronger fabric to a community. When spending time in Augusta’s urban core to celebrate events like Arts in the Heart, an annual festival that draws over seventy thousand people to celebrate arts and culture, the Westobou Festival, the Greek Festival, the Hispanic Festival or the Color Run, to name just a few, I’m always reminded that cities are meant to be gathering places where urban verandah’s allow us to spend time not only with friends and neighbors but also to meet and interact with citizens from all walks of life who we may never have met before.
One observation I’ve made throughout the years is that this type of interaction or connection with our fellow citizens is key to the overall health of a city. It has also been my obersvation that when people don’t interact and one side of town is pitted against another, more times than not for political gain, cities simply don’t operate in a healthy and functional manner. Ultimately, cties and communities are built on trust and connectivity and when we get to know the person living on the other side of the imaginary fence that divides us, we come to see that they’re not much different than us with the same wants, needs, desires and dreams. Thus, its ultimately these type of interactions that lead to walls of mistrust, often held in place for decades by those who would benefit in some way from them being there, being torn down to the benefit of the city as a whole.
In the end those simple human connection points that cities provide in abundance stand to benefit us all.