Five Surefire Ways to NOT Help Your Community Thrive
[Editor's Note: This post originally appeared in the Tiverton/Little Compton Rhode Island Patch, where I've started blogging on redefining the suburban experience as a way to help drive dialogue in my community on issues that I believe are important to our vitality and resilience. Given that you could easily replace Tiverton and Little Compton with your own community, I thought I would share it with everyone. Feel free to view the original and read the ensuing comments.]
Communities are living, breathing entities. Thinking, feeling things guided by a collective conscience and general moral compass. A whole that in many ways is the sum of its parts.
The laws of nature also apply to communities: There is life, there is passing; there is the constant of change that weaves its way through all the moments in-between; there is internal and external growth and evolution sparked by day-to-day experiences.
Amidst the challenges and struggles, successes and accomplishments, communities thrive on. How might you ask? Remember those “parts” from a few paragraphs before? Those are you and me; our families and our neighbors. Everyone coming together not only for the benefit of each other but the collective whole. Community living is all about the give and take; a real live stone soup of sorts, where everyone has something to contribute to make it the best it can be.
But alas, we continue to live in polarized times fraught with pointing fingers, blaring bullhorns, and internet anonymity that makes it okay to belittle and degrade your neighbors; economic, social and environmental tensions that unfortunately only seem to drive the wedge deeper instead of inspiring innovation, collaboration and good old fashion ingenuity.
I haven’t spent much time on The Patch, but from what I’ve observed and partaken in terms of “dialogue” has been far from uplifting. Given that, I’ve taken the liberty of capturing a list of five surefire ways to take the “unity” out of community, snuff out resiliency and not help it thrive:
- Scream From the Sidelines. Communities are participatory in nature. Playing armchair or Monday Morning quarterback won’t change anything. If you don’t like how things are, get involved and apply your thoughts, time and talents directly.
- Beat Down Ideas. Similar to #1, if you’re not adding ideas to the mix, you shouldn’t be so quick to shoot down those of others. Bring your chips to the table if you want play a hand.
- Spew from the Ideologue’s Pulpit. Whether you drift far to the left or right, communities balance best when positioned from the center of the political and social fulcrum. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinions and positions, but at some point, if the center can’t be found, you’re only sliding off to one side or the other.
- Spend Your Dollars Elsewhere. Not supporting (y)our local economic base only fuels the budget and tax debate (debacle?). It’s been proven over and over again that supporting local businesses allows money to stay in the community and be paid forward. Can’t find what you’re looking for here? Maybe that’s your cue to pursue a business opportunity yourself.
- Think It’s an Eternal “Us” Versus “Them” Struggle. This is so old. It doesn’t work in Washington. It doesn’t work in Providence. It sure as heck doesn’t work at the local level either. We have to find the courage to get away from playing this card, find common ground and fix the problems that we believe are before us.
When are we going to get past all of this, roll up our sleeves and get down to work? Our communities, so fortunate to be nestled in this neck of the woods continue to set the stage for great things – smart, sensible and resilient things that pave the way for communal prosperity at every turn.
We teach our kids to share and play nice in the sandbox; to practice compassion and kindness; to use words to build up, not hurt others; that they can do anything they set their minds to. Why is it that all that flies out the window when you become a taxpayer?
We all can do better.
[image: sara gerlach]
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