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Christmas time has arrived: all drop tools for a while.
There’s a pause in the drivers of the workaday world. No oomph, no urgency. Neighbors out in force, bustling around, getting ready. But always sparing a moment for inquiry and good wishes to their near ones. The time for that is upon us – ’tis time for old fashioned community virtues.

There are two days when the world stops – in our corner[s] of it, anyway. Christmas and New Year. Hardly any traffic. People out for a good old fashioned walk. Bright, untroubled faces look up, saying “Merry Christmas” “Happy New Year” as they pass crunching in the snow.
This is a time when the truth of our more neighborly side asserts itself and it’s okay. In our commercial entities, a little grace comes into play. There is demonstrated gratitude for those who sustain enterprises.

Much of the year, faces are set. Determined. In the hard heart of commercialdom, if one looks at another person in passing, it’s to size them up. You got something for me? No? Then don’t mess with me. “I’m busy” – engaged, preoccupied with very important matters. In some environments, merely making eye contact is dangerous. “You lookin’ at me?”

I once wanted to make a Ph.D. Of studying eye engagement. It is a “thing” – you know! There are those people and there are those studies.

People cultivate “distancing”, a gaze that goes off into the elsewhere. What are they looking at? Nothing you can identify. The game face. Anything not to engage. Not greeting. Not acknowledging. Or mesmerized by the smart phone. Elsewhere. That “gaze” is fairly predominant.

In our companies, do we want this? Disengaged, uninterested in what’s going on around with each other? Distancing others on the “team”?

Unless, as in the B to C world, there is commercial value in engagement. So then it is understood that cool gaze would never do! In stores and other “service” venues, there are neighborly rules. Staff:

  • must make eye contact
  • must smile and say “hello” if within 10 feet
  • encourage and be helpful if there is any inquiry: in Safeway the staff member must take you to the aisle where the goods required are

The service culture. We all live with it and have become inured, cynicized by it. Because we know it’s fake, forced. We have a real good nose when there is commercial advantage underlying/ driving behavior. Still, it’s sure more pleasant than the alternative!

It’s only brought into play because “we need you.” How about that? Lays bare the underlying assumption the service people are working to displace: uninterested, disengaged = “I don’t need you.” Take it a little further = “You’re nothing to me.”

This is the default culture “core Values” are intended to supplant.
In our enterprises: Do we need each other? Have reason to depend on each other?

This time of year is more relaxed: folks fall back into the good old neighborly behaviors. Those habits seem to be lodged in there somewhere. Just suppressed or overridden by “urgency” some of the time.

I live in two other communities part of the year. Part of the absolute delight of these places is that the “other” code is not in effect.

When you pass others, they look up – even women at men! Generally smile 0r at least don’t appear to be unavailable. Quite often, strangers greet each other. “Hola seƱor!” Or “Nice day!”. And that may lead to other casual fun conversation. “Those look like comfortable shoes!” There’s time for that. And it’s okay – to venture a little bit. And out of that flows the possibility of mutual interest – a basis for relation. As neighbors. Nothing more. Unless it becomes more through mutual discovery.

In Mexico, people stick together much better than many financially comfortable people do. When we’re well off, we often don’t need or care about one another. When our very survival depends upon it, we are more likely to love and honor our parents, to treat our children with care and respect, to engage with our neighbors -because we need each other.

On Hornby, people are available because of interest, of possibility. You never know the depth of the person you’re meeting. Or what they may introduce into your life that could take you on a fascinating jag.

Residents of these communities didn’t get the memo! They never learned to shut off the mutual involvement gene; they’re still open. And potentially helpful or at least interested. Hence the “Hellos”. And “Nice days”. Innocent openings to possibility, reinforcements of belonging to a tribe.

There may be a commercial nexus to some of those encounters. But you don’t feel it’s driving the interaction.

In companies, a good start is neighborly virtues styled as “Core Values” to encourage staff to work together. Purpose? to institute simple neighborly virtues to operate at work:

  • Look after each other
  • Be open to what others may have to offer
  • Respect and value your neighbor
  • Offer help to others, and be ready to receive and appreciate it
  • Be friendly

Building a kinder, more empathic community. Because we need each other, depend on each other.

It’s a manifestation of “Good will toward men”.
Whoops, politically incorrect carol!

Be good to each other out there! May the grace and neighborliness of this unique season cloak you, your families and your communities. And may that persist on into the New Year.

My gift of musical reverence to you –


Doug Bouey
Catalyst Strategic Consultants Ltd.
Helping people of fine character extend their impact

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Doug Bouey, President
Catalyst Strategic Consultants Ltd.

Calgary, AB // Phone: 403.777.1144


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