Look at you, reading a brand new column in a community newspaper! That makes you—on some level—a community minded person. You care about the place you live. You’re solving one of the puzzles in the great scheme of human nature. That being the propensity of people with divergent tastes and ideas to nevertheless cluster together. If not in harmony, which requires peace and accord, then at least in community, which requires respect and cooperation.
By learning from newspapers about the needs, plans and achievements of those shopping in the grocery, the ones whose tail lights glare during rush hour, and those elected to govern, you are subscribing to a tried and true method of maintaining community. Well done, you!
Here’s why a strong community is so critical to our shared existence: Beyond the truly awesome outpourings that result from tragedies, in addition to well-attended fetes and fireworks displays, a strong community fosters better candidates as well as better voters. Under the auspices of caring and well-informed citizens, all are accountable. Candidates are held to higher standards of experience and gravitas. Voters use higher standards in judging which issues address the greater good of the community as a whole. Thus, our quality of life springs from the standards we set. Of course there are other contributing factors (and certainly horrible exceptions), but let’s focus on success today.
Contribution to community does not, however, end with spending a few minutes in the smudges of newsprint and in the voting booth. Community forms around neighbors. Good communities form around worthy neighbors. Being such a neighbor requires more personal investment. The basis for this was once referred to as “Love Your Neighbor.” Well, let’s face it: behavior on the level of love is just not sustainable toward the person on the block who lets her dogs bark at all hours—or flies a flag that makes your blood boil—or complains about something your kids are up to. Today’s definition of love just doesn’t work.
What if instead we changed that one little word to fit more modern times? Love is, after all, the ultimate, infinitesimal mystery. It wouldn’t surprise me to read in the paper one day that scientists had finally developed a new ultra super collider to isolate and identify the singular particle that forms all manner of matter. To everyone’s chagrin, it turns out to be a base element we call love. But that’s a topic for another day.
So what if we changed the high-falutin’ “Love Your Neighbor” into a more manageable “respect your neighbor?” Barking dogs might not sound so intrusive. Flapping flags might not seem so obnoxious. Complaints about the kids might provide positive teaching moments. All because you’re aware and appreciative that those people are generally making an effort and not quite being perfect at it. The same way you are. Reading about others within the neighborhood makes this all so much more possible. Maybe a passing wave leads to a conversation. And so on and so on. The effect of more widespread respect greatly adds additional particles to the tensile strength of community, which casts an array of pleasing possibilities upon that shared existence.
So, you remarkable reader, you!mMy thanks for giving this column a go. I hope you’ll continue to look in even when I fall short. Born, raised and schooled in Jeffco, I’ve always known Arvada as an affable place. One of my neighbors who lives farther down the street recently admitted to me that my reputation had suffered from grapevine speculations a while back when a police car kept showing up in front my house. Someone more in the know finally informed him that the police car actually was a take-home cruiser assigned to my husband. Just goes to show you.
Judy Allison has enjoyed a long and varied career in media and has written for newspapers, magazines, cable TV, government entities and elected officials. She and her dog Torrey the Wonder-Bouvier wander through many neighborhoods in the region.