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Five Lessons I Learned from Peter Kageyama’s For the Love of Cities

by Melissa Thompson, CEO/President of Community Foundation of Greater Huntsville

The love affair between people and their places is one of the strongest bonds that can exist.  Peter Kageyama’s book For the Love of Cities explores this connection and why it matters.  Here are five lessons I learned from reading this insightful book:

  1. People are longing for a place not only to live, but also to love.

People want more from their cities than just pothole-free streets.  People want places where they can belong.  Places they love . . . and that loves them back.  This love of community makes a difference.  Peter Kageyama writes:

When we love our city, as when we love another person, we will go to extraordinary lengths for them.  We will sacrifice for them; we will push ourselves for them; we will tolerate their shortfalls; we will forgive their excesses – all because we see their true nature.  When we have an emotional connection to our place, we are less likely to leave it and far more likely to champion and defend it in the face of criticism.

  1. The love we have for our community is made up of a thousand little things.It’s rarely the big landmarks or labels that cause someone to fall in love with their community. Rather, it’s a whole host of little things that form an impenetrable bond between people and their places. At the Community Foundation, we recently launched a “For the Love of Home” campaign to capture some of these little things that people love about our area.  Here is a sample of some of these #LoveNotes:

For more #LoveNotes, visit

  1. We can help write our community’s story.Every day, we each are adding chapters to the narrative about our community. Our city itself is a shared story of our common existence. What kind of story are we writing?  Is it a story that draws the reader in?  Is it a story that makes onlookers want to learn more about this unique place in North Alabama?  We are the authors.  I happen to believe that we are writing a compelling story about our community.
  2. Our community’s co-creators should be cherished and celebrated.

When some people think about cities, they immediately begin thinking about the decision-makers, whether they are elected officials or business leaders.  In reality, there is another group of community champions that equally set the tone for our cities.  Who are these community champions?  According to Kageyama,

They are the outliers. . . . they are the ones who are truly “in love” with their community.  They start things.  They make thing happen. They inspire others to get in the game.  They educate people.  They connect people.  They are tastemakers and trendsetters.  They are the 1% who built Wikipedia.

These community champions are passionately committed to this place we call home.  They create emotional connections with our community that the rest of us enjoy.  They lead others from being merely consumers of a city, to being co-creators of this community we love.

  1. Generosity is an ultimate act of love for our community by investing to provide, preserve, and protect our community for future generations.

When we love deeply, we want to protect and pay it forward.  Whether it’s our kids or our communities, we invest in those we love.  I have the best job in the world because I get to help people be generous each day.  I see the love that people have for our community and the creative ways that they choose to invest here.  At the Community Foundation, we say that generosity is simply an investment in the future you want to create.  Based on the generosity I see every day, I firmly believe that the future of our community is very bright.

If you want to learn more about why creating loveable cities matters, please join us on September 9 at the Summit on Philanthropy where Peter Kageyama will be our keynote speaker.

We are blessed to live in a community that is deeply loved.  It seems like every week there is another accolade bestowed on the Greater Huntsville area that celebrates what we know to be true of our community.  Others recognize that we live in a great place and want to join us here.  What kind of community will they find?  What role will each of us play in building this community?  I know that I want to build a community that future generations will love as much as I do.  Together we can build a city we love and that loves us back.