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EDITOR'S NOTE: One Person, One City in Jackson

Jackson is one big city. The people within it each have their own cities, and all connect to form one great large city.

Jackson is one big city. The people within it each have their own cities, and all connect to form one great large city. Photo by Julie Skipper.

I've learned that to have a successful event, you must create a list and check it as many times as possible. But then you also have to be OK with missing a few things. In the art-related events I've done over the last year, I've forgotten everything from signs to nails to a whole table.

Luckily, I've gotten a lot better at organizing everything, and I've turned loading my tiny car into a science.

Even when artists improve greatly, we're bound to forget something. But there's a third aspect of these events you don't even realize until you're in the thick of it: Vendors essentially form their own small community. At Priced to Move, for example, the vendor across from me graciously lent me a few zip ties, and I was able to successfully finish hanging my art.

At Beacon Makers Market a few weeks ago, I shared a light and power with the booth next to me. And at every single event where I have to use my tent, multiple people often step in to help, and I've offered to help others. Seems basic, no?

For the most part, there seems to be this air of camaraderie among the vendors at those types of events. No one says it out loud. We all just sort of know it. Someone helps you out, and you help others. (though this, of course, isn't always the case). That sense of community is what keeps me going at these events, even when I'm frustrated.

Community is one of my favorite topics to discuss, and it's something we should all put more emphasis on. After all, if you look at it from the universe's perspective, all humans are one giant community.

Merriam-Webster's broadest definition of the word is "a unified body of individuals," and many of the sub-definitions focus on having something in common—people who come together through common traits, interests, policies, you name it.

So at its most basic level, your community is a group of people you have in something in common with.

But it goes so much deeper than that. It isn't just about having something in common with someone else. It's about your circle. The ones who come to your rescue when you're in trouble. Those you can lean on when life gets tough. The people who will randomly do all of your yard work or offer you a meal when you're on your last dollar. Essentially, it's the people who will go to bat for you, and those you will do the same for (because it must go both ways).

The name of my church, CityHeart, is derived from the idea that one heart matters, and that each of those hearts, or people, have different cities they can affect. Our cities include our friends and coworkers, family members and the people we interact with every day. I have a specific circle I can reach, and other people at CityHeart have their own. The idea is to reach more people by empowering ourselves to reach out to the people in our own cities, and then we come together to make one body.

A lot of times, reaching out to our cities does mean stepping outside our comfort zones. It means reaching across aisles we may not really want to cross. It means talking to people we may not want to talk to, and having conversations that may make us uncomfortable. Those things may sound scary, but how can you create an effective community if you stay within the boundaries of what you know?

I like the idea of each of us having our own cities. Our circles connect us to other people, who have their own cities. It keeps connecting us until we form this great big community, and then that community is connect to other ones. It goes on and on until we see that even though we might be thousands of miles apart, we're all connected in some way or another.

If we all think about it that way, it might not be so hard to empathize with other people—or hell, to just be kind to them. Because, after all, we are all just people. We're people with needs and wants and desires and hopes and dreams. We all need food, water and sleep. We all, at some point in the day, have to use the bathroom.

Many people seem to have lost the sense of what the word community really means. It's essentially become just another word in our lexicon. And to some, maybe it's just another buzz word.

But it's not just that, and it shouldn't be. Community is what we need. It's who we are. We are the city. We're the ones who determine how our lives turn out, and every single one of us has the power to affect someone else.

So if each one of us is a city, and we live in a city, we take that as a note to get involved at whatever level we can. We should advocate for each other, and for what we need. In Jackson, that's better infrastructure, more support and resources for the schools, and more opportunities so we stop losing people to bigger cities.

We all need that sense of camaraderie, both for ourselves and for each other. We need to go to bat for each other, especially right now.

Managing Editor Amber Helsel is a storyteller who moonlights as an artist. She loves food, cats, anime and art supplies. You can often catch her running sound at CityHeart Church. Email story ideas to amber@jackson-freepress.com.


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