Hyong Yi turned some heads at a press conference in Washington, D.C., this week to announce the expansion of a Charlotte-born urban environmental sustainability program. Charlotte’s assistant city manager was up supporting the imaginative folks at Envision Charlotte, whose innovative initiatives on urban energy are now going national.
Hyong shared via social media that he took this august moment to ask a panel of urban policy experts what they thought about … love.
More specifically, he wanted to know what they thought of the role love plays in city planning and the power of establishing an urban culture built on loving our neighbors.
This reportedly solicited furrowed brows and hand-wringing from the panel, followed by an urgent dash away from the topic and toward things these guys think are really important, like transit, concrete and economic cost-benefit analyses for cities.
All important elements of a functioning city.
But what’s love got to do with it?
Hyong’s unorthodox question maybe wasn’t so eccentric after all.
As the director of one of Charlotte’s oldest health and wellness nonprofits serving those with very limited incomes, I’ve been seeking inspiration and ideas for how we can create an environment to maximize the health and wellness of all of our citizens.
Charles Montgomery’s book “Happy City” offers clues from places around the world about how we can establish a city where all – regardless of economic circumstance or the neighborhood they live in – have the best shot at establishing good health.
Montgomery makes the case that cities can offer a variety of amenities and distractions, such as roads and buses and stadiums. But based on a growing body of academic literature, we are learning that the most powerful psychological effect of the city “is the way it moderates our relationships with people.”
Cities that provide an opportunity for people to interact in all sorts of planned and unexpected ways are more likely to flourish. The more a city and a city’s soul and structure bring people together, the more likely the city will thrive.
Montgomery cites economist John Helliwell’s research into this new (to me) world of happiness economics. Helliwell posits that “if 10 percent more people thought they had someone to count on in life, it would have a greater effect on national life satisfaction than giving everyone a 50 percent raise.”
Having “someone to count on in life” is based on creating over many years authentic relationships that become cemented in trust … and I think are built on a foundation of love and wanting to show and express our love to each other.
So I thought back on Hyong’s question at the DC conference.
When we think about the work of Care Ring, what’s love got to do with it?
We offer comprehensive primary care in our uptown clinic, coordinate the provision of voluntary health care from more than half of Charlotte’s physicians in clinics all over town, and have nurses who go into the homes of pregnant moms across Charlotte to establish healthy behaviors and prepare new families for the future.
These interventions have proven outcomes. Those we serve – moms with limited resources preparing for motherhood, workers and others without affordable access to health care services – are unquestionably better off because of our work.
But what causes our nurses to decide to dedicate their lives to going into Charlotte’s most fragile – and in some cases most dangerous – neighborhoods to care for these new moms, all at a salary much less than what they can earn walking into virtually any hospital or clinic in town?
What drives our physician and dentist partners to offer up valuable clinic space to see those with so little … at no cost?
What internal urge attracts health care providers, administrative experts, fundraising phenoms, and accounting, human resource and other professionals to work with the poor and less fortunate at our clinic and with our poverty-fighting brother and sister agencies across town, at incomes and prestige at a much lower level than what the market provides?
Love, love, love.
Thank you to the Charlotte Observer for publishing a version of this blog post in their October 13, 2015 edition:
#EnvisionCharlotte #CareRing #DonJonas #HyongYi