The Book of Ecclesiastes teaches us, Do not look too long on the beauty that belongs to someone else. In other words, we can never be another, but rather we must learn to appreciate what is beautiful in our own lives and in our community.
I recently had the opportunity to visit Rockford for the second time. The first time I was there, it was winter; the streets were cold, and trees were barren. I also did not take the time to see the citys inner beauty.
On my latest trip to Rockford, I encountered a very different community. I had the opportunity to see not only its wonderful gardens and meet some of its dynamic citizens, but I also had the chance to see beyond its outer shell to the potential of the citys soul.
Those who live in Rockford live in a wonderful place, a city that has both natural and human resources, a downtown waiting, crying out for rebirth, fine restaurants and an intellectually challenging museum scene. Such a community deserves to develop its own inner beauty.
All too often, beautification gets lost in a web of politics and budgetary items. Beautification is not necessarily an expensive task. While some projects do take money, others can be done on an individual basis.
To beautify ones city is to take the time to peer into ones communitys soul. It means taking a few extra minutes to make sure that lawns are mowed, and flowerbeds are weeded and that you greet each person with a smile and a pleasant hello.
There are as many ways to make a city more beautiful as there are stars in the heavens. Beautification should not be viewed as a luxury. It is a necessity. Attractive cities are the ones that draw in tourist dollars and encourage people to consider relocating to them. Beautification is also a way to hold down crime.
These quality-of-life issues seem to speak to the soul, and so in city after city where broken windows are replaced, garbage is not allowed to sit, and front yards are clean and tidy, crime is also reduced, and a civil society is reborn. In a like manner, children learn best in appealing environments. While scholarship can exist almost anywhere, schools that teach organization and neatness, cleanliness and a sense of beauty have a higher rate of producing good and productive citizens.
In the end, a citys beautification program is more than simply planting trees and flowers. It is an attempt to touch a communitys inner self and to find a way so that all of its citizens can work toward a common good. I want to thank the people of Rockford for allowing me to sample a bit of their communitys beauty, and I hope that from the seeds of its present beautification program, an economic renaissance will grow.
Dr. Peter Tarlow resides in College Station, Texas.