If you’ve ever heard me talk about being involved in my community, you’ve likely heard me say that I don’t like the phrase “give back to the community.” I don’t like that phrase because to me it insinuates that I somehow took something and now I have to give it back. It feels like an obligation or a penance. I much prefer the idea that I feel compelled to participate in my community to the best of my ability. I don’t owe it to anyone but I choose to do it because I love my community and I have an ability to contribute. Further, I believe everyone has SOMETHING to contribute so I think that using this phrase helps others, in whatever life circumstance, feel like they have a place to participate. Anyone can pick up a piece of litter and put it in the trashcan. Anyone can choose not to litter in the first place. Anyone can be kind to a stranger. Anyone can drive responsibly or do their best at their particular job in order to brighten someone’s day. As you have more means, the ways you can participate change. Notice I didn’t say they get better or more impactful or anything to insinuate that one person’s contribution is better than another’s. Its not about better. It is about participating to your full ability. If I have more means, I have an ability to participate in more things and at a greater amount. Not better. Just more.
The cool part is, that if you only have the means to participate by simply smiling at folks on a regular basis or by picking up some litter on your way to and from work, you can impact people and see the ripple effect. Your influence in that simple action could impact the lady that is about to speak to a room full of people because that is where her ability is. And one of the guys in that room could impact an entire community through his leadership. And one of the school children he impacts could impact an entire state when she eventually becomes governor. I know that sounds far fetched but is it? Why not? We are made up of moments. Experiences that act as bumpers on our path. Why not try to be the positive bumper for someone. The one that makes a difference for them today. Or in the next 15 minutes.
One thing I firmly believe is that Rutherford County, per capita, has more community participants than most places. We have people showing up at charity events. We have people participating in civic organizations like Kiwanis and Rotary and Cable. We have people serving others at MTSU, at Motlow, at The Boys and Girls Club. We have volunteer coaches for ALL KINDS of sports. We have phenomenal public and private schools brimming with brilliant and dedicated teachers. We have outstanding community servants in our police, fire, EMS, postal service, public works, utilities, municipal government and other non-private jobs. And we have a thriving business and entrepreneurial community with literally thousands of small businesses, franchises and corporate businesses that serve our population on an hourly basis. And somehow, through some stroke of luck or divine intervention or something, most of the people I named are similarly minded (even if they can’t quantify it or articulate it) to me in that they see how they can impact someone just by participating in their community. In other words, we generally have a happy, engaging community. Know how I know? People are moving here in droves. People WANT to be here. They like it here because it is a nice place to live with generally nice, accommodating people.
So, the question is, how do you participate in your community positively? What are the things you do that make life here better? You may not have ever thought about it like this. But how do you impact people on a regular basis and build up this community?