Opinion: We all win when we work together toward the same goal

Before our founding assembly, our board chair penned an opinion editorial in the Calgary Herald. You can read it here.

Opinion: We all win when we work together toward the same goal

My 11-year-old son plays soccer. His long-suffering coach often yells, “Boys, work together!” Sometimes they listen, sometimes they don’t. When they do, they are far more likely to win.

What’s true for kids is true for adults. We Calgarians are facing a lot of challenges today from the economic downturn, to austerity measures from the province, to the opioid crisis that claims the lives of four to five Calgarians a week. Times are tough and the only way we are going to get through this is if we work together.

For the past year and a half, I have chaired the board of the Calgary Alliance for the Common Good. We are an alliance of 29 (and growing) organizations. We are Jewish, Christian and Muslim. We are carpenters and transit workers. We are the Eritrean Community Association and two universities. Together, we represent over 31,000 Calgarians who care about our city.

What do we do? First and foremost, we listen to one another. This past spring (when there was a campaign of another kind going on) we had a listening campaign. We had face-to-face conversations among our 31,000 members and asked, “What challenges do you face?”    Overwhelmingly, we heard about mental health. Struggles with mental health cross all economic, social and cultural lines: parents are struggling, children are struggling, seniors are struggling.  Office workers and shift workers are struggling. Studies suggest that more than half of all Albertans who have died in the opioid crisis worked in the trades, transportation or as equipment operators. Our conversations backed this tragic statistic up.

In July, when we heard that the city’s mental health and addiction strategy was likely going to be part of the $60-million budget cut, we put the word out to our 30,000 members that we needed their help to Keep Calgary Strong. It was a Monday morning and we not only filled city council chambers but the overflow as well. When council refused to listen on Monday, we came back Tuesday. In the end, council voted unanimously to fund the mental health and addiction strategy. This is one example of how Calgarians, like kids playing soccer, are stronger when we work together.

It’s also fun to work together. Thanks to the alliance, I’m constantly making new friends and learning new things from Calgarians of all walks of life. I get invited to delicious Eid Celebrations at Olympic Plaza. Big tattooed construction workers show me pictures of their kids and new immigrants tell me how much they value the Calgary library system. Native elders teach me about cultural practices like “making wolf,” a way of reconciling after a conflict. Rabbis tell me that the Ten Commandments were originally referred to (by the Jews, who had them first) as the Ten Utterances.

I can’t say enough about the joy I get from witnessing the strength and diversity of our city up close. Time and time again, when we sit across the table from one another, we leave realizing we have far more in common than anything that might seem to divide us.

On Thursday, the Calgary Alliance for the Common Good invites all Calgarians to come to our founding assembly at 7 p.m. at Knox United Church (506 4th St S.W). The Cantare Children’s Choir is singing, a Turkish troupe is dancing, politicians from all three levels of government will be on hand to celebrate with us. Chief Lee Crowchild and Elder Kelly Good Eagle will bring us wisdom.

Yes, Oct. 17 is four days before a federal election and a week before the provincial budget.
But what better time for Calgarians to come together and celebrate that we are stronger together. Like kids playing soccer, we are only going to win if we work together. After all, we all have the same goal.

Rev. Anna Greenwood-Lee is the chair of the board of the Calgary Alliance for the Common Good www.calgarycommongood.org. She also serves as the priest of St. Laurence Anglican Church www.stlaurence.ca and co-director of the Wisdom Centre www.wisdomcentre.ca