Most people in town have some very specific answers to that question. We need more affordable housing. We need more jobs that supply a living wage all year. We need more year-round opportunities in general. We need to attract younger residents. You can even probably add several more items to that list. And as we’re gathering for the annual town meeting, a lot of these goals are being discussed. They’re good goals. They’re all things that Provincetown needs.
But maybe we’re looking at things from the wrong perspective.
There’s a danger in becoming too detailed before building out a framework in which specifics can develop and flourish. And, like all other things ptownie, my sense is that everything we need can be grouped under one main rubric: community.
In many ways, Provincetown is far out ahead of many—if not most—other towns anywhere in America in terms of its sense of community. We may (and do) argue about everything under the sun, but in times of emergency we draw together and take care of each other. We complain vociferously about the things that divide us, but we’re the first to stand up just as vociferously for each other to defend our neighbors when someone from our community is criticized.
But sometimes we forget that community. We forget those strengths. We get enmired in the day-to-day specifics of where we want change and stop thinking about each other in positive, productive ways.
Those goals that I mentioned at the beginning? They’re really all about community. Building a strong community means being sure that no one is left behind, whether it’s people needing a home, a job, a vacation, or a retirement. The one doesn’t have to be in opposition to the other.
A community is a group of individuals connected to each other by one or more attributes. The element that links them together is at the core, and is the essence of the group. Just as denoted by the root and the suffix of the word (common-unity), a certain segment of the population is united by a familiar thread.
It’s often been observed that no one gets to Provincetown by accident. We’re not on the way somewhere else. We’re at land’s end, as far out geographically (and some would say socially) as you can get. We’ve all made a commitment to this place that is wild and beautiful—and quirky and infuriating at times, as well.
We need a sense of belonging, and that sense of belonging is what connects us to the many relationships we develop. There’s a wonderful quote from Thich Nhat Hanh, who says, “I ask all of you to hold up your hands and tell me the truth. Do you believe, as I do, that someone in our hamlet is keeping the fire alive?”
As long as we can keep our priorities grounded in community, we’ll be keeping that fire alive. As long as we can see the problems that confront us as solvable within the construct of community, we’ll be keeping that fire alive. As long as we look for goals for Provincetown but see them within the larger picture of community, we’ll be keeping that fire alive.
And that’s the perspective that Provincetown needs.