I live in a small city, Porirua, New Zealand, with a population of around 50,000, a baby city really. Geographically our city is split by our two harbours, our many hills and demographically. Like many larger cities we have our poor and our wealthy, its white and its brown faces.
We are shadowed by our larger and hipper neighbouring city, Wellington, which is also the capital of New Zealand known for its strong café and bar scene and where many of our locals commute to daily.
But when I’m driving home and I see Mount Cooper/Whitireia’s half-moon shape I know I’m nearly there…home.
“We turn the corner on the motorway and there it is. Whitiriea. The heart calms. The breath deepens. HOME.”
But often when I’m at a local event or even just shopping I’m struck by the diversity in our city and how we mostly all get along, but how we often know so little about each other, and how this lack of knowledge can sometimes lend us to sit uncomfortably side-by-side. But it also makes me wonder about each of these communities and sub-communities, our diverse cultural, ethnic, economic, sporting and art cultures, and from our youth to our elderly. What are their stories? What are their aspirations?
It makes me wonder how can we develop and grow stronger individually and collectively within our groups, sub-groups and the city-large. How do we build a stronger empathy for one another? I’ve thought of doing a photographic essay after being inspired by Humans of New York, but wasn’t sure if we had the population to make it sustainable.
But after watching the below video from 99U: Insights on making ideas happen I’m again inspired. The inspiration comes from a San Francisco illustrator and graphic journalist, Wendy MacNaughton, who with a social worker’s heart started drawing those around her. One of her first projects was meeting and drawing people in the San Francisco library. I too have looked at those who congregate in our own city’s library. It seems that the original idea of a library, that is being a service that lends books, being the secondary reason why many are there. With many spending hours reading the newspapers, using the computers, studying, and exploring their genealogy.
Our city, our individual stories should be shared too. It’s time we stopped avoiding one another and started listening.
Be inspired to start listening by watching Wendy’s presentation below.
We all have a lesson to learn by listening to Wendy’s own journey and message: to get out of our own heads, stop assuming and start listening to the stories of strangers.