CityScrapes: After months of loss, San Antonio should move toward building true community

click to enlarge Cars line up for a San Antonio Food Bank distribution during the economic downturn that accompanied the pandemic. - INSTAGRAM / SAN ANTONIO FOOD BANK
Instagram / San Antonio Food Bank
Cars line up for a San Antonio Food Bank distribution during the economic downturn that accompanied the pandemic.
Editor’s Note: The following is CityScrapes, a column of opinion and analysis.

The past 13 or so months as San Antonio has grappled with the pandemic have been incredibly difficult. It’s been more than a year of fear and anxiety, more than a year of not knowing what is coming next, a year of loneliness and isolation. It’s been an extended time of trial, turmoil and upheaval.

Above all, it has been a time of loss.

We have lost loved ones. We have lost family. We have lost friends. We have lost co-workers. We have lost neighbors.

And all that loss has been made even more difficult and trying because we have been unable to assemble, join and mourn together, sharing our feelings and emotions with those we care for and about.

I too suffered a great personal loss during that time, although not from COVID-19. My wife Hilary passed away very suddenly last month. It has been simply devastating.

But what has helped make a difference, helped to sustain me, is my community — the network of family and friends, neighbors, colleagues, students current and former, and people who have touched my life and made me something more. Everyone has been kind and generous, warm and supportive. It is that community that makes my life worthwhile.

San Antonio is more than a collection of buildings and spaces, more than just jobs and “economic development,” more than the imagery and mythology of celebrations such as Fiesta, Diez y Seis, Juneteenth and the Fourth of July. It is — or should be — a community of people who recognize the virtues and needs, the capacity and limits of all its members.

Now, when this community has suffered and lost, when its people have been stressed by hardship and isolation, we need a place and time to mourn together, to recognize our loss and offer our support and aid. But above all, we need to commit to helping and sustaining each other, to building a true community.

All too often in the past, San Antonians have chosen to live in their own small silos, to stick to their side of town and assume that the problems, needs and wants of someone else — or somewhere else — isn’t their problem. But, in reality, it is.

Our churches, synagogues and mosques cannot thrive in a community that doesn’t recognize the strength in its differences and the necessity of mutual understanding.

My neighborhood, like your neighborhood, can’t function as a true community unless all of our neighborhoods collaborate and share. Those neighborhoods also can’t function unless our local governments and institutions recognize the need to talk with them, listen to them and respond to them.

We need to value and support the institutions that serve us and seek to make this place better for all of us — from area nonprofit organizations and educational institutions to the varied and distinct voices of our news media and our authors.

My own loss isn’t going away. Our collective loss will be here tomorrow, and the next day and month and year. Still, we can see to it that caring is what defines San Antonio as a true community in the days and years ahead.

Heywood Sanders is a professor of public policy at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

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