There’s been a lot of talk again lately around town about people losing their sense of community.
Certainly this area is no different than many around the country that has seen societal changes impact the habits and preferences of its residents, shoppers, visitors, etc. I suppose the discussion really centers on just how sharp a decline we are seeing in an individual’s investment in their community and where we will be 10-20-30 years from now.
It is tough to know where to start when discussing this topic since there are so many factors and approaches one could take. But the overall concern really is not only how much a resident participates in and contributes to their community &tstr; but also how much importance they place on it? It is one thing if your friend or neighbor goes home and either plops down in front of the computer or television for the rest of the night or has 10 other tasks keeping them busy and doesn’t give back or participate in the community &tstr; it’s another altogether if they don’t seem to mind or even think about it at all.
Of course the great fear is that if the whole (community) isn’t nurtured by its many parts as time marches on, a slow and steady decay &tstr; which may have already begun &tstr; will eventually destroy all that is beautiful and often taken for granted.
To really take a look at community, let’s start by looking at a few of its many definitions as listed by Merriam Webster:
“an interacting population of various kinds of individuals (as species) in a common location; a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society (a community of retired persons); a group linked by a common policy; a body of persons or nations having a common history or common social, economic, and political interests (the international community).”
If you think back to the very first communities that rose up out of the most primitive settings and conveniences, there really was no choice but to see these terms carried out to their fullest. In fact, you would think the definitions were written after watching settlers build a town. But as times and society changed, and technology, economies and other progressive tendencies took hold and grew &tstr; movement away from these basic definitions of community seemed to be a logical consequence. And while they say change is one of the true constants in our world, the degree and timing of that change is what may truly characterize the future of our communities. As is often the case throughout history, however, it is the citizens who will ultimately determine the future of their community.
So with that said, what kind of grades would you give yourself on a report card detailing your commitment, involvement and passion for community? How about we do a quick test? There won’t be any wrong answers, and yes, you do get to score your own papers. Perhaps this will serve as inspiration or motivation or, at the very least, serve as reason to pause and reflect.
1. How important is your community to you?
2. How often do you think about it?
3. Are you proud of your community?
4. What do you like best?
5. Do you want to see it remain as is for future generations to enjoy as you did or still do?
6. How often do you interact with your neighbors?
7. How many trips do you take to downtown? How many times do you go just because you feel you should?
8. Do you make it a point to support downtown events and new initiatives like the open air market?
9. When planning to eat out, do you try to stay local?
10. When staying local, do you try to support restaurants that are locally-based and community-oriented or is that something not important to you?
11. These same questions can be applied to just about every area of shopping as well. Is staying local and buying local important to you?
12. When seeking entertainment options, do you try to look in the local area first or do you automatically think you need to head toward Lancaster?
13. Do you support local institutions like the rec center, public library, hospital and playhouse by choosing them as destinations? If not, do you support them financially?
14. Do you support or donate to at least one if not all of your local emergency service providers?
14. Do you belong to at least one community civic group or organization?
15. Do you give to at least one community civic group or organization?
16. Do you make it a point to attend the activities of at least one community civic group or organization or at least purchase items from them during fund-raisers?
17. Do you take an interest in which businesses support the community through sponsorships and participation with activities?
18. Do you support and try to get your children involved with long-time community traditions such as Easter Egg hunts, fireworks, the fair and Santa coming to town &tstr; or even a high school sporting event?
19, Are you concerned about the future of your community or just angry that it is not the way it used to be?
20. Would you be willing to give up one night of TV watching or computer game playing a month to give time and change the answer to one of these questions?
See, it’s always about the close &tstr; the point where the talking is done and it’s time to ask the person to commit to something. I haven’t been in sales for many years but when it’s something I am about to inflict on myself, I have no problem asking others to take a look as well. I am not happy with all my responses and I want to do a better job. I can’t keep saying that this is too busy a time in life and ask for “excused” on many questions. So many others don’t, so I shouldn’t either.
We have been talking over the past half-year, especially with the unveiling of the new paper, how important the word “local” is to The Review. The “It Matters” campaign has emphasized the importance of shopping, dining, living and reading local. And while the paper has always had, and hopefully will always have, this philosophy, as staff members I feel we need to, to the best of our ability, practice in our own lives what we preach on the job. I am happy with my score but know it could be better.
How about you?
Before closing this week, we want to offer a fond farewell to Dan Witwer, a wonderful local community member who passed away last week at age 59.
I first got to know Dan when he and his family took over my dad’s insurance agency many years ago. Keeping my insurance at their office on South State Street, I remember stopping in there several times and talking with Dan &tstr; most often about sports, local or national. It’s ironic that it is now March Madness time, as I recall discussing brackets with Dan on a few occasions while visiting the office.
Dan was involved in several community functions but there is no question that beautiful tributes to him on social media last week focused on his coaching youth football. Though I didn’t get to witness him in action personally, I heard many stories of his passion for coaching young folks and one time I do recall, many years ago, his stopping in at the front desk of the rec just to check who had signed up thus far to play on his midget team that fall.
Sincere sympathies go out to his family and many friends.