by Jeremy Rickman
What does the word home mean to you? Comfort, pride, security, there are so many words that one can use for what it means to them. Why not take a moment and think just what it means to you. Is it just a place to live because it's convenient, a safe place for you and your family, or is it the ever popular location location, location?
As a whole being a resident, business owner, or even a person that moves to a new place for school or work, we become an ambassador in our own way. We should take pride in our surroundings. True, there are city workers that are paid to make our city a nice place to live, a safe place to raise a family, and the roads clear during the winter months. But I would like you to take a moment and think about something. When at home and the dishes are piling up do we all have someone paid to clean them? If you have a child do you pay someone to teach them to walk on their own or begin reading? Most I would hope would say, "No, of course not." This being said we also should ensure that we as a citizen should do our part in maintaining our community.
As an example, I tend to walk during the sunset hours downtown. When out on walks if I see a piece of trash on the sidewalk I'll pick it up and deposit it in a waste can. Now granted if it's something that might prove to be hazardous it goes without saying that I'll leave it be but I'm sure those reading will get my point. Just recently I took a walk to the store to grab a quick soda and saw someone filling up a flat tire and heard the unfortunate hiss of air as she had a punctured tire. Sure I could have walked by and ignored it but I'd like to thing being an abled person who is an ambassador I offered to change her tire. It only took about ten minutes. (Btw nice tip when you buy a car. See if you can work out a deal to get a full size spare or if not check local junkyards for a rim and you can find used tires in the area cheap.) How many readers have driven by lemonade stands this summer and stopped? For me every single one I saw. I'm a sucker for small business what can I say. But over the last few years I've noticed the number of them dwindle down. It's an inexpensive way for kids to make some money and introduce them to what it means to take pride in the block they live on. For the older kids offering to mow yards for the neighborhood folks. Gets them outside make few bucks and see that a little hard work is ok in this day and age rather then sitting inside behind a computer screen or console. (At least until they come out with WiiMower or Xtreme Snow Shoveling.)
Another thing to help and learn more about becoming involved with your city or town is take in a city council meeting. I try and get to them from time to time to listen to what changes are being proposed and have a chance to speak out if there is an idea or a concern. A few years back I voiced concerns at a village chamber meeting where a lot of land slated for residential was brought up to be changed to light industrial in order to put a self storage business across the street from a home I was living in. At the time the corner flooded and there were kids that played in the big field. Taking measurements of the size and rainfall I went to the meeting to voice my concerns at the additional groundwater and safety concerns and the application to change the zoning was denied. So one person can make a impact. Most meeting allow for the residents to have a voice in order to bring up concerns they might have so if you see something or hear something that bothers you why not have your voice heard?
Now I know that it's easier to just walk by and ignore things or think that someone else will take care or it. But think about the impact that if enough people spoke out what changes they might make. What if someone saw you pick up that cup and throw it away? I'd like to hope that at least one person would see that and think, "Wow. You know that's a good idea." And with enough people perhaps eventually all the neighborhoods would be one that we all could take pride in. Corner lot full of trash or see a yard full of weeds and tall grass? Why not take a moment to be that group to make the neighborhood nicer or be that person to help out a neighbor.
We all in our own way have something we can do to make our community or even block better. It's just a matter of taking a few seconds, minutes, or hours out of our day to do it. I challenge each of you as a citizen and ambassador to once a day do just that whether it be throwing away a newspaper on a bench to offering to change a tire. Who knows maybe just maybe others will catch on. I'd like to imagine our friends at the Peoria Journal Star would take notice at the flood of Random Acts of Kindness letters.