What a Small Community in San Francisco Taught Me About Resilient Communities

Recently, I came back from a trip to San Francisco, which is where my parents spent much of the early years of their marriage. San Francisco was where they created their life together, further continuing and developing it in Seattle after they moved. Although it took a little time, as a family we now feel that both communities are home to us, but in unique ways. San Francisco will always be where we started out, but Seattle is where we formed our “adult family.”

This weekend, I looked around at the people who knew me from infancy, who were now discussing my career development and pursuits. They saw me go through blissful childhood, some awful teenage years, some worse college years and now living with important life lessons learned. I reflected on how many dynamics have changed- the breakups, divorces, fights… but also how many ways they have retained their originality. The entertainers of the crowd are still making inappropriate jokes, and elderly women are still trying to marry the young women off to the Most Eligible Man. I love the blissful chaos.

But what does it have to do with resilience? What I noticed, beyond the comic relief, was how the ebb and flow have been formative agents in making this resilient group. This community has withstood the test of time, furthering relationships, accepting each other after the sting of divisions or feuds.

This community showed me that to build resilient community, you have to a) stick to what you’re building, but b) learn to adapt and adapt to learn. In other words, to create the steadfast community, organization or personal improvement, there needs to be equal amounts loyalty, persistence and flexibility.

Resilience, I realized, isn’t a state of being, but a dynamic and learned process. It reminded me of a theory called Broaden and Build Theory by social psychologist Barbara Fredrickson, which is illustrated below. Fredrickson believes that if you make positive life choices which engender positive emotions, you broaden your worldview, your network… thus building a better live with increased resources and a more purposeful path.

Activity for reflection:

What immediate or larger communities have you been a part of? How long have you been a part of them? What changes have you seen?

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