For this edition focused on the economy, I want to talk about something other than money. It’s about true wealth.
The story assignments in this special issue were crafted to explore all the nooks and crannies of the local economy, to study the whole picture. You know what happened? Inevitably, but not by design, just about every story ended up focusing on the housing crisis.
I’m pretty sure everyone has a story they could share on the dire housing circumstances out there — about a family you know that had to leave the area, about being asked to vacate your rented home of two decades so it can go to market, about losing an employee to the housing dearth, and about feeling heartache regarding the direction of our community.
In conversations I’ve had, I often hear justifications for taking advantage of the hot housing market. “Well, if I were in the same position, I might just do the same thing.” And I’m hearing a related, and growing, sentiment that “if you can’t afford to live here, that’s your problem.”
That is hogwash. It’s our problem. A real community takes care of its own.
Margaret Wheatley, an American writer, teacher, speaker, and management consultant, put out a call for communities to take charge in her 2017 book, Who Do We Choose to Be? In it she argues that the societal issues we face cannot be solved on a global level — we simply don’t have the political will on the worldwide stage. What we can do is focus more locally and create “islands of sanity.” To get there we need people to lead the way. A passage from the opening of the book states:
This world does not need more entrepreneurs.
This world does not need more technology breakthroughs.
This world needs leaders.
We need leaders who put service over self, who can be steadfast through crises and failures, who want to stay present and make a difference to the people, situations, and causes they care about.
We have the power to create a society in Tahoe/Truckee that we believe in, and indeed there are many people tirelessly working toward protecting and solidifying our community. But if we don’t all stand up and define what our community means, we have no chance.
Who do we choose to be? What if, when we asked ourselves what we would do if given the chance to cash in on the stratospheric housing market, we instead said, “I choose to be about community.”
That decision, repeated over and over again, would lead to a community replete with wealth that supersedes the almighty dollar.