Archive » February 16, 2012
By SaraLloyd Truax, Staff Writer
Tentatively, she approaches with her question.
I am no longer shy. After suffering with that affliction for far too long, I resolved Ė one long ago New Yearís Eve Ė to no longer be reserved. I remain, however, both carefully guarded of my privacy and sensitive to the hesitancy of others to come forward.
I smile and probably make some inane comment about the weather or something, I donít recall. Whatever I said was meant to open the door, not to be remembered. She smiles back. And so the conversation begins.
In a nutshell, what she wants to know is what she can do to make a difference in her community. She has something specific in mind and thinks that my being a journalist gives me a leg up on the subject. Perhaps it should. But, as the wife of clergy, I long ago learned to protect my wonderful husband by never talking politics or religion.
Some things, like toothbrushes, arenít meant to be shared except with the people with whom you are most intimate. No doubt you notice I have neither mentioned the ladyís name, nor the subject of the change or status quo she is trying to protect. The long and short of it is that it doesnít matter. What she wants to know is how, and the answer to that question doesnít change much with the nature or subject of the controversy.
The ability to affect change is the very first thing our forefathers ensured all those who would come later would have the power to do. They did it by way of a document called the First Amendment.
It was never meant to be something you learn about but never apply to your own life. Rather, the First Amendment was meant to be used. Now Iím not promoting standing on a street corner waving banners or otherwise disturbing the quiet enjoyment of our streets. (Nor am I suggesting, however, that sometimes there isnít a time and place for that). It just never was, nor ever will be, my thing.
Frankly, other than giving people a chance to blow off some steam in a more or less appropriate fashion, I donít think that kind of protest does much. But that is simply my never-to-be-humble opinion.
I believe in the power of words, politely and repeatedly spoken to the community as a whole and specifically to the people who are empowered to do something about the ills we observe and want remedied.
So if ďitĒ has you riled up enough to grumble, speak up. But for goodnessí sake, find a positive way to do it. It is selfish to say you want or donít want something without first taking a moment to see the issue from the other perspective and to offer a constructive resolution. It doesnít have to be anything grand.
For example, rather than ďI donít want a sober living home on my streetĒ (which I truly donít), remember that there is a need. Iím all for giving people who honestly want to turn their lives around a safe place to live during those ever-so-important first months, but . . .
Putting a recovery home immediately next door to a bar is tantamount to undermining its residents from the outset. Placing a sober living residence where presently planned, likewise, damages the community Ė which more than ever needs home values stabilized.
Undermining local home values in the long run will not help anyone find jobs here.
Besides, placing individuals struggling with drugs and alcohol abuse in a family neighborhood without giving those neighbors notice, and an opportunity to be heard, creates an atmosphere of distrust. Neighborly relations are not built from a foundation of suspicion. Itís not good for people on either end of the equation.
You see, first you lay out the problem logically and without emotion. Just state the simple facts. Then move on to a solution.
Wouldnít it make more sense to find a home more on the outskirts of town, where free time can be productively used tending a garden or animals Ė and perhaps enjoying long walks or vistas that elicit positive artistic expression? Couldnít we re-route our local bus system, as limited as it may be, to wherever the facility ends up, so residents can easily get to and from town? By and large, the buses donít run when the bars are open, helping to reduce temptations.
Furthermore, arenít those on their way to sober living more likely to be accepted as valuable neighbors in the community if the first response isnít: Keep them away from my home and my kids?
Okay, thatís just an example Ė and not on the topic of the conversation that prompted this commentary. But it leads to the next question: What do you do with those words once youíve composed them? Donít tell my editor I said this, but start by sending letters (notice the plural) to your local newspaper.
If there is something in your community that needs attention called to it, speak up, speak out, speak often. Write your local paper, write your local political representatives, write local organizations that serve or work with whoever or whatever the ďitĒ is. For that matter, write to ďitĒ as well.
And when youíre done, do it again (and again, for however long it takes.)
Change happens when someone makes it happen. If you arenít the someone who can make the change, then be the someone who motivates it. Use the First Amendment; thatís what it is there for.
Speak up. It is not only your right, but also a privilege and an obligation.