Joshua Langlais is a local photographer and the creator of A Community Thread, a project for which he interviews folks on the subject of community, its importance and how we function as individuals within it.
This is an excerpt from his interview with Shimiko Montgomery from March of 2018. Shimiko, like many of us, has many descriptors, but when asked her title, she is likely to smile and tell you her name and that she is a mother to her three children.
A Community Thread: What matters to you?
Shimiko Montgomery: Personally, what matters to me most is family. But when I think of outside of just my family here, what matters to me most is that people are cared for. And I really think that's the bottom line. If you're gonna exist in this world, you need to know that you matter, that you're valued, that your needs are being met. I feel like there's so many people in this world that we can all sort of support one another. And so, finding ways to do that in my life has been what matters to me most.
What matters to me most are these relationships. It's making sure other people are cared for. I see so often there are groups around town that kind of are excluded or they're not quite valued for who they are or people make assumptions about them or these face-value judgments and that really gets under my skin because these are all people that are part of our community. I don't feel like we can be a whole community without getting to know each one of these people.
When I think of downtown, where you have these teenagers—kids, really—who are sort of hanging around that walkway area and they hang out by Mirror Pond. You know, there's people in our community that feel like those people need to go. And it's things like that that matter to me. Those are people. Those are kids. They have parents. They have hopes and dreams and lives that they want to live. And how can we bring them into the fold? How can we care for everybody in this community—not just me and my neighbors and the people that I care about? How can everybody here live into the fullness of who they are? And how can we support that and encourage that? And those are the sort of things that matter to me and kind of shape the work that I do and how I spend my days and what I choose to spend my time on.
ACT: What do we mean to each other?
SM: I think ultimately everyone wants to belong. Everyone has something to contribute to that. So it's not just them personally, like they need to belong. Fulfilling that—everybody wants to feel like they're contributing. But then also, I don't feel like our community is whole—I don't feel like our world is whole—unless every person is realized for who they are.
When we were living in Bali, the expat community was constantly cracking me up because they weren't like accountants or store owners or doctors. They had found kind of their one little niche. One lady, all she did was design labyrinths. And then another lady, all she did was colon cleanses. You know what I mean? They found their passion. They were living it and they were living it the way that they wanted to live it. And I love that about Bali. And I think that's ultimately what I want to see here—that people are living into their fullest potential and who they feel like they were meant to be. We need to build on those connections.
ACT: What does community mean to you?
SM: It's a space for us to belong. There's so many different communities that I would say I'm a part of. You have the community at large and then I have my church community and then I have my community of mom friends. Of course, you have your virtual community of Facebook and people that you've known throughout your life. Community is just a space where I feel like I am a part of something, in a variety of different ways. You know, we're all multi-faceted like that. We're not just a resident or a homeowner. I'm not just a Christian. I'm not just a mom. You know, I'm not just someone who's traveled to a variety of places. I'm all those people. And so, to be a part of all these different communities and to belong to all those different communities kind of feeds my soul in variety of different ways. Community, for me, is everything.
Hear or read this interview in its entirety at acommunitythread.com.