Byron Hackett is the Managing Editor of the Red Deer Advocate.

Hackett: Renewing a sense of community in Red Deer and beyond

We’ve seen fans gather over the past several months at Red Deer Rebels games – the smiling faces, the laughs and of course the dance cam, the kids go wild for the dance cam. It was all back and boy was it fun.

It’s funny how quickly two years without something like that goes by and you forget how truly fun it is to gather and cheer for something as a collective.

You’ve seen the same thing over the past few weeks as the NHL playoffs kicked off, with huge gatherings in Calgary outside the Saddledome, in Edmonton at Rogers Place or in Maple Leafs Square in Toronto.

That collective joy just does something for the soul – even if it’s collective dread after a loss, there’s still something magical about it.

Many of us have missed that and have needed that in our lives over the past two years.

World-renowned researcher Brené Brown wrote in her book Braving the Wilderness about the division we face in our society and the loss of the human connection and its impact.

Brown says, “one way to bolster that belief is to seek out everyday moments of collective joy and pain with strangers – moments that remind us of our common humanity, a foundation that can support us later when we find ourselves in conflict. We have to catch enough glimpses of people connecting to one another and experiencing shared emotion that we believe in our inextricable connection.”

That totally tracks with what we’ve witnessed through the COVID-19 pandemic.

I was at a concert recently and it was the same thing, just so much joy for people finally being out, able to scream the lyrics of their favourite band, next to a complete stranger who is feeling the exact same way. It’s a very unique human experience.

My feet were hurting and my back was sore but the smiling faces of all those people made me feel a lot of joy. Joy you don’t always find when scrolling through Netflix or scrolling on social media on your own.

At a scaled-down level, this is happening in communities across the country – people coming together again.

I was also at Red Deer PCN Fun Run last Saturday and there was just so much going on. From ball hockey tournaments to XPlore Sport Day and the run itself, people were genuinely happy to be together again. It was just great to see. It felt normal.

At the Advocate, we’re getting emails and calls almost daily about a run, walk or event that is set to take place this summer – each weekend packed to the brim with things to do and community events to take part in.

It’s hard to quantify how big of a role these things used to play in our lives.

For people who do take part, it was a goal or something to look forward to, that helped dispel the doldrums of everyday life. For those who volunteered, it was a way to give back, make a difference and often help out a cause that was important to them.

These events help develop a sense of purpose for people beyond what they do day-to-day. During the pandemic, we lost are way a little bit, missed out on the collective experience and how much it helped break up the mundaneness of life. Maybe it helped with motivation or that you were a little less alone in whatever struggle you had.

As much as people are eager to gather, I’m sure there are those that are hesitant to be in big crowds or socialize in huge groups of people after what we’ve been through over the past few years.

While it may not be for everyone, that social connection does some good for everybody and is sometimes exactly what the doctor ordered.

So take your time, do it at your own pace. But try and get out there and be with people again. Participate in something or volunteer at an event. It’s sometimes hard to remember how much of that stuff was second nature not too long ago. But it was and it can be again.

Byron Hackett is the Managing Editor of the Red Deer Advocate.