WHAT MATTERS MOST IN YOUR LIFE? I’m going to hedge a bet that if you take a minute (some may need longer) that the answer isn’t going to be your worldly possessions or latest Pokemon capture, it’s the people in your life that you love and care about; your family, friends and neighbours.  Thing is, all too often these people get put behind the “stuff” that fills our day to the brim.

Ray Oldenburg, an urban sociologist, Professor Emeritus at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of West Florida, has a book The Great Good Place written all the way back in 1991. He has worked with designers, communities and people around the world. So what has he got to say? Ray breaks down our physical world into 3 places.

First place, HOME.

Second place, WORK.

Third places are where you go to connect with people. Relax. Talk. Listen. Connect.

The Third place is the jam that holds both the first and second together.  These places, are essential to community vitality, says Oldenburg.

Your everyday third place has traditionally been barber shops, post offices and local pubs but not so much any more. More often than not, hangouts and watering holes are now populated with WiFi seekers and laptop loners. I’m one of them! Times have changed. We seem to need a reason to hang out and be social these days. Where do we do that? Is it still important?

As a whole, WE need to do a better job at the important things listed above. When was the last time you checked in with your neighbour? Listened to your mother, relaxed with your kids, really talked to your friend.  Things seemed to have gotten a lot busier these days.  We are connecting all the time, to our devices… virtually communicating with people around the world but something is still missing.

So, how do we do better? Ray is totally on to some thing with third places. We need to make third places a priority. This is where we are better people, nurture community, be kind and CARE. They are neutral spaces. What do these third places look like? Well, we have a great example in our community.  The New Glasgow Farmers Market is a blooming example of a vital component in our regional fabric. People come to get their local goods with most staying to soak up the company, listen to some music and contribute to positive population health. Wow!

A little church in Alma is creating a neutral place for community to come every Monday night and hear local music and beyond (Check out the line up for Music Monday’s at Green Hill-Alma United Church, on FaceBook).  A friend of mine organizes a free-flowing group of parents and kids that go into the woods and explore every week. I don’t always know everyone there, which is great! I’m meeting new friends and catching up with old friends and the same goes for my boys.

The logistics of rural life often challenge certain demographics. We have some hurdles to get around, no question but in the mean time, do your best to connect. Don’t go to town or an event with empty seats in your vehicle. Pull people together. Be it to the weekly market or back woods romp. Make more room for these types of connections in your life.  Your community and humanity thanks you!

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This fall Rachael gets her last little one on the bus to start school. The first day of school will fill many a Mama with a load of emotion. It’s safe to say that a glass of wine will be had by more than a few that day. So, it’s fitting that Rachael chats with grape growers Dave and Anita Poirier who are producing their own wine along the West River. Cheers to a new season and fresh starts!