It’s the little things

You’re resilient. The Gunnison Valley community is resilient. And resiliency saves lives.

Study after study shows the importance of social ties in a community. Social ties that aren’t just limited to people who come from a similar background or look like you or have similar life experiences.

A benefit of our isolated, small community is that these social ties between people who would not generally cross paths in day-to-day life come more easily.

One of the most famous studies on community resiliency took place after a devastating heat wave in Chicago in 1995. Two very similar neighborhoods had very different outcomes. Both Englewood and Auburn Gresham were overwhelmingly poor with many elderly people living alone. In Englewood, the death rate was 33 people per 100,000 while in Auburn Gresham, the death rate was three per 100,000, lower than many white, affluent neighborhoods in the Chicago area.

Why the drastic difference? While poverty and discrimination were present in both neighborhoods, Englewood had been largely abandoned as a “community” while Auburn Gresham had shops and stores – places to go, reason for people to walk the streets, a safer atmosphere for kids to play outside.

As my colleague, Maryo, would say, “Resilience is a collective thing. It depends not just on the fortitude of oneself but the fortitude of the community. It is achieved by building the social capital, the social bonds, that make a community a community instead of just a zip code.”

What makes our community a community? People walking around town, passing with a wave or quick “hello”. Stopping to chat at the grocery store. Looking for ways to give back.

So many of you have stepped up to build resiliency in this community over the last several months, and you may not even realize it. Offering suggestions to a newcomer. Volunteering. Looking out for friends, neighbors, co-workers. Making donations, large or small, to causes important to you.

Recognizing the importance of community resiliency, the City of Gunnison helped put together an informal effort to build social ties in the midst of the pandemic. The City, the Community Foundation, the Chamber and community members have quietly led several efforts to strengthen our community with The Resiliency Project over the last several months. Some of those efforts include:

  • Hero Next Door features in local newspapers during the spring and summer
  • Flowers for isolated seniors
  • Be Well signs seen in yards and around town – a greeting card, of sorts, to offer strength and hope
  • Yard signs celebrating the graduating high school class of 2020
  • Music Cruises visiting neighborhoods with a mobile band pulled on a flat-bed trailer
  • Holiday luminarias – Hoping to sell 1,000 simple luminarias to light up the Valley, nearly 7,000 were ordered by the November deadline! Look for these all around the Gunnison Valley later in December.

Coming up: The Resiliency Project has a series of podcast stories about long-ago winters in the Gunnison Valley that will be available for free to listen to later in December. Great storytellers connecting today with times past. The Gunnison Valley Journal will share local stories from the “COVID-19 era”. If funding is secured, a mobile fire pit will be making the rounds this winter for safe, distant, outdoor gatherings. Stay tuned!

These may seem to be small efforts when looking at bigger issues. Yes, we have big community challenges to tackle – housing, poverty, food insecurity, inadequate mental health resources. The list goes on, and while I can assure you these are the focus for many people and organizations every day, the little things add up. Let’s not forget about the little things.

Have an idea for The Resiliency Project?

Email with your suggestion.

Click here to give!