Mary-Margaret McMahon is something of a Rock Star in my neighbourhood.

Her official bio: Mary Margaret McMahon is the city councillor for Ward 32 Beaches East York where she's lived with her family for 20 years. A consummate neighbourhood advocate and connector, Councillor McMahon helped found the East Lynn Farmers Market on Danforth, has organized community socials, greening and gardening initiatives and worked as a senior manager and education leader. Her outgoing personality and positive contribution to the neighbourhood is what the citizens appreciate most about her.

Well, yes. And she is fearless, bold and committed. And a hell of a lot of fun.

This anecdote from The Toronto Star does a fine job of stating my case:

She’s dressed in a giant peapod costume, walking along the Danforth on a hot summer’s afternoon, urging passersby to visit the farmers’ market she helped organize in a nearby park.

A bunch of teenage boys are pointing and snickering at her. McMahon follows them into a convenience store and pointedly asks: “What? Don’t you guys like vegetables?” The teens are stunned by her frankness and are forced to admit they like vegetables, including peas.

How she went from “political unknown” stay-at-home Mama to wildly popular (unseating four-term incumbent by 9000 votes) City Councillor fascinates me. So of course I had to ask her about it.

What's your thing?

Mary-Margaret McMahon: Helping people.

Was finding your thing the result of a divine revelation, an insane invention, a culmination of insights...or something else?

Mary-Margaret McMahon: Staying home with my kids gave me the opportunity to volunteer.

Volunteering gave me the opportunity to see how much small gestures, time, and energy can make a huge difference to someone. That made me feel wonderful.  So I got hooked.  I also grew up in a home with parents who were/are huge volunteers.

After I saw what I could accomplish in our pocket, I thought why not spread the volunteer bug and empower people across the ward and city to build better neighbourhoods?!

Obstacles/fears/doubts – what were they, how'd you vanquish them?

Mary-Margaret McMahon: The more I spoke to people about my idea, the more they empowered me!  Some tried to talk me out of it but I am very obstinate.  I worried about not having a Campaign Manager but was hopeful one would come out of the woodwork at some point.  S/he never did!!  But it didn't matter!

Knocking at doors was so much fun and very empowering!  Some people berated me but it was good practice and gave me a thicker skin.

Plus I am an eternal optimist and absolutely love people!

What questions did you ask yourself to trigger your a-ha moments...and what signs and milestones should others be looking for in their journeys?

Mary-Margaret McMahon: I didn't really ask myself anything except why not spread my enthusiasm across the ward and encourage people to be the change they wish to see.


Here's what I'm taking away from Mary-Margaret's experience:

  1. Talk to your people - Get their perspectives. Help them help you get excited about your thing. Let them in.
  2. Volunteer - see what fits.
  3. Walk your talk - literally.

And that asking yourself "WHY NOT spread my gifts and enthusiasm?" - and answering it with action - feels essential.

So let's start there: what are YOUR gifts that you'd enthusiastically like to share?

(let's talk about this - really chew it over - on Facebook)


You can find Mary-Margaret at her site


pssst: if you'd like to share your story (or question!) with Thing Finding Thursday, please e-mail me at