Commentary – Step out to find your people

Pearl Lorentzen

The second weekend in September, I had a booth at two events in Slave Lake. The first was as a volunteer with the Slave Lake and Area Mental Health Network and the second as the leader of the Slave Lake Writers’ Group. In both cases, I spoke to some strangers about our mutual interests. It struck me how important it is to find people with similar interests.
I absolutely hate small talk, but do not get me started on writing, community involvement or mental health. I’ll talk your ear off!
This is exactly what happened at the second event, Art in the Park. A person I had never met before sat down. We had a long, animated conversation about writing and mental health. Whether or not we see each other again, we were able to brighten each other’s day.
I have been in Slave Lake for over three years now. Many of the people I see on a regular basis are those people in the first few months I connected with on some level.
I really enjoy having a broad network of people I can ask questions of and have meaningful conversations with. For me, a lot of these connections have come through volunteering for groups that interest me. What better way to find people with similar interests!
Volunteers are the backbone of any small community, but volunteer burnout is very real. I always encourage people to volunteer in places or for things which interest them.
There are a number of very worthwhile causes which I don’t volunteer with, because my passion isn’t there. However, it matters to someone, and so I am very glad that there are people who are willing to step up and take the effort to make it work.
January of 2020, I took the Rural Mental Health Network ‘animator’ training. This is a program which trains people living in a rural community to animate – bring to life – a grassroots movement to improve mental health. Since then, I have been working with two other Slave Lake animators and the Slave Lake and Area Mental Health Network to make this a reality.
One of the things that has stuck with me since training is the idea of strengths-based community development. In a nutshell this means, “Everyone has things they are passionate about. That passion is their motivation to act. A leader’s role is to help them identify this and encourage them.”
This is one of the reasons I am so enthusiastic about encouraging people to find ‘their people.’ People around them with similar hobbies, causes, or what have you.
While I talk with anyone, I have a lot more in common with some people. These are not necessarily the people I would guess from the outside, but something internal is similar.
I do not mean that we agree on everything. I do not think I 100 per cent agree with any one of my friends, but I do respect them, value their opinion, and enjoy talking with them.
I am very glad I have started throwing a wide net for acquaintances and letting time and connected interests winnow these down to friends.
Also, I have nothing against having a good conversation with a stranger and letting that be the one and only time that we light up each other’s lives. Not every conversation is a good one, but when one starts. Enjoy it!

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