Being Civic Minded
I think most of us will agree, residents of a community should be civic minded. That’s a simple statement, but I’ve found in almost every town I have visited, many residents have a mindset that being civic minded is primarily the job of community leaders or the Chamber of Commerce. Well, I’m going to expand the meaning of being civic minded to include a lot more citizens of a community than just the leadership. My definition of being civic minded is going to cover every individual in a community.
Of course, it makes sense to expand being civic minded to include everyone in the community, because their involvement obviously improves the community. I think it’s a disgrace to just live in a town and depend on someone else to do all the dirty work. More involvement by more citizens always equals a better community. But we all know there will be those who lead the effort in community improvements, and those who lag behind and actually do nothing or very little. Every town’s success is ultimately depends on the number of citizens who are civic minded. The goal of every community is to have a strong group of civic minded individuals who lead the pack of workers to lift a town up, and increase the quality of life in that community. But to really have a quality community every citizen of that town should join in the effort. However, in every town I have been in, I see weed covered lots, vacant buildings, and trash along the streets. I’ve found out that many times a city must literally force these owners to be civic minded.
The early settlers, who founded the towns in our nation, were successful because of the wholehearted support of virtually every person in these new communities. They gave us a great example, so where do we start?
First, let’s ignore the need for an army carrying weedeaters, which of course wouldn’t be needed if the city actually kept city right-of-ways trimmed and cleaned. Let’s focus on the vacant lots and buildings. Those are the real town killers. Let’s me give you my experience when considering the problem of vacant lots. In 1974 my wife and I were living in Corpus Christi, Texas, and we decided to move back home to South Arkansas. We had plans to build a new house, and we came to El Dorado looking for a suitable lot. Long story short—we couldn’t find one. Oh yes, there were plenty of lots, but they weren’t for sale. Actually, we lucked out, and after almost buying a great house in Columbus, Mississippi, we found an old beer joint attached to 17 acres—the Palace, on Calion Road—bought it, leveled the beer joint, and moved to El Dorado. Those lots that we tried to buy are still available, but not for sale. I believe being civic minded is more than just living in a town. There are responsibilities and contributing to community growth is one of them.
Of course civic responsibility is everybody’s business. The businessman, attorney, or doctor who lives in the community and makes his living from the people and business in the community has a civic obligation and responsibility to support and actively participate in civic improvements. Not only that, but these individuals have a responsibility to be active promoters of businesses that they aren’t directly involved in, and if they have unused land and buildings, and someone wants to build on or renovate and improve the buildings and land they should sell to them and not inhibit community growth.
A community of people who encourages growth and improves the quality of life in their town will naturally do many altruistic things. Altruistic means “for the good of others without gain for themselves”. A town with no altruistic individuals is a sad place to live because it’s the altruistic people who give towns the spirit of community and pride. However, before we place all the blame or credit on the professional people in our community, we would be amiss not to consider the actions of every resident. When we do that, we will see the quality of life in a community doesn’t depend upon a few civic minded individuals. Obviously, the more civic minded people you have in a community, the better the quality of life their town’s citizens will have. Involvement can be as small as picking up trash in front of your house, or refraining from tossing a beer can out the window. I guess you might say “trash litters” and realize that statement has a double meaning, and of course, the definition of trash needs to be on everybody’s mind. Yes, cigarette butts are trash, and according to most experts, they are major contributors to liter. Of course, I could go on and on about how being civic minded improves a town, but I think you get the point.
Yes, it’s easy to nod in agreement when someone endorses being civic minded, but becoming active is a lot harder to do. Just think of what our town could be if we doubled the number of people who are civic minded?