When did the first communities begin in North America? Evidence now suggests that human habitation can be traced back to 20,000 years ago. The Plano cultures, which were a group of hunter and gatherer communities, lived on the Great Plains some 10,000 years ago. More recently, we know that Leif Eirikson and his Viking crew set up camp and eventually built a settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows in north western Newfoundland on or about 1001 CE. Jacques Cartier didn't arrive in Newfoundland and at the Baie de Gaspé until 1534.
This was when the name Canada was first recorded, originating from the Huron and Iroquois word 'Kanata' meaning settlement, village or community. In Cornwall Ontario the first serious European settlement was established in 1784. Since then our ancestors and many of us first generation immigrants and refugees have come here to establish or become a part of existing communities.
The dictionary definition of the term community is: A body of people living in the same place under the same laws and regulations and having common rights, privileges, or interests. While the term 'community' has redefined itself to some extent through technology's 'virtual communication', the one part that has not changed is that human beings are social creatures with a need for interaction. It is this set of interactions, or human behaviours that generate expectations and meaning between its members based on shared beliefs and values.
At no time is this more evident than right now, in this season giving. We cannot close our eyes to the reality that 1175 families have registered for a food basket in our community. The good news is that we are being drawn into a spirit of purposeful interaction with others. We are experiencing compassion. We are opening our hearts and wallets and giving to the Agape Centre, Baldwin House, the Hospice and a number of other community services so that they in turn can provide food and clothing and shelter to those in need. Just as the first settlers learned to work together in order to endure untold hardships and build a nation, we too are recognizing that if we are to thrive as a strong, stable community, we must take care of each other. And in this interaction lies the greatest gift we can offer to others as well as to ourselves: the gift of hope.
Community, compassion and hope are age old concepts but from time to time, we need to reinvent them.