Last year I moved with my husband Peter Dobson, to Garden Park Tower (GPT),

Garden Park Tower

Garden Park Tower

We moved from Cedar Springs Country Estate (town homes) on the east side of Abbotsford BC, where we lived for 21 years. We had travelled only 15 minutes distance across town, but it seemed like a new city and a new world had opened up to us here. We are now closer to the heart of the city (a walkable 2 blocks from city hall), the highway into Vancouver and the many health care and community services offered right in the building.

Peter has been retired from his own construction business since 2000, but I am still working – as a writer (of books and articles); professor (of graduate students at Royal Roads University School of Leadership and Environmental Studies); and city futurist. Happily for me, I can do much of my work from the comfort of my office chair, inspired by a view of Mt. Baker from my front window, the comforts of the Rose Room Coffee Shop downstairs and the renewal of a stroll around our pocket garden or an invigorating walk along Discovery Trail with new friends from GPT.

The City of Abbotsford has inspired me to learn from a variety of leaders in many walks of life; its unique geographic location as a hub of urban/rural living in the Fraser Valley; and the global opportunities and threats arising from its economics (the most intensely farmed region of North America), culture (the most giving city in Canada) and social structure (the city with the third most visible diversity in Canada).

But when I first started working in Abbotsford in 1985 I was offered one of the greatest opportunities of my life – namely to trade my management skills in exchange for learning the care-giving skills from the volunteers I came to meet in the Chamber of Commerce, Community Services, City Advisory Committees, Arts Community, Sports Associations, University of the Fraser Valley (and its predecessors), School Board, Health Authority, Faith Community and Government Agencies.

I quickly learned everywhere I turned, that Abbotsford was a city blessed with the spirit of volunteerism in action. The impact of this volunteer spirit offered leadership “stretches” to young and old, men and women, born Canadians and recent immigrants, Christians, Sikhs and other faiths, professionals and trades people, rich and poor. The wealth of differences seemed to really add up to the “difference that makes a difference”.

Since arriving at GPT this spirit of volunteerism has been an overwhelming value that has positively impacted the flow of life for both Peter and me. I was stunned when we moved in with the first offer of help to even unpack my dishes!! Since then we have enjoyed the continuous civility of greetings in the elevator, gentle guidance with “how we do things around here” (e.g. with buggies and newspapers) and the impressively cheerful, hard working volunteers in the office and the coffee shop. We are even inspired when we find little ways to volunteer (e.g. in the garden) and/or to discover how our gifts could be of service to the larger community.

We appreciate the tremendous respect for people, their cultures, their stories and their talents. While GPT provides a lifestyle that is so much more compact (in space and time) than the one we left behind, we have appreciated the breathing room we have here. We are grateful for the delicate balance of feeling publicly welcomed while still feeling our personal privacy is respected. We feel we have found a home base where it is safe and comfortable to look after ourselves, look after our neighbours and look after this place.

In my work with leaders and cities this set of values, is fundamental to a code that I believe healthy communities and cities are learning to live by. I call it the Master Code. It simply says:

Look after Yourself, so you can …

Look after Others, so together we can …

Look after this Place (and this Planet).

Living at Garden Park Towers, feels like we have moved into a Place whose values reflect this Mater Code. And we are grateful that we are called to optimize it some way every day.