By Paul Gorski
It is easy to write a negative column, and readers sometimes seem to gravitate toward the sensational topic or headline. Talk radio hosts and some news sources fire up negative attitudes just to increase ratings or online comment, but I respect you more than that. I want to remind you that you’re not alone, and you can affect change in the community by working with your neighbors.
I commute some 150 miles round trip to work most weekdays. I’m often asked “why?” I like the people here. I’m not a big fan of many of our less-than-inspirational leaders, but I like most of the residents I’ve met. I just like it here.
When I first came to the Rockford area 30 years ago, I noticed something different about the people here. I felt then, and still do, this is the biggest “small town” I’ve ever seen. Given the large size of the community, residents are still generally well-connected with each other, whether it be through churches, schools, neighborhood associations, clubs or other community organizations. Use those connections to help build and improve the community.
First, build relationships with local political, business and economic development leaders before you need their help. Invite them to speak to your group and/or visit them at their offices. Let them know you’re there. Remind them you’re interested in knowing how you can help with reducing crime, improving schools or creating jobs. These meetings don’t have to be big public meetings, just door-opening conversations.
Even if you’re not impressed with some of these leaders, work with them. Give them the chance to do the right thing. They might surprise you, and they may learn something during the process, too.
Next, find “champions” for your causes, your group, within these business and political groups. Find people who will discuss your group’s activities, events and interests in improving the community. Target one or two members, your inside contacts, who will help keep the lines of communication open.
Work with other like-minded groups, and share your common goals via letters to the editor and press conferences. I was impressed by the “Don’t start a war with Syria!” letter in the Sept. 4-10 issue (http://rockrivertimes.com/letters-to-the-editor/2013/09/04/don%E2%80%99t-start-a-war-with-syria/). The letter was signed by a coalition of political and community groups. Seemingly unrelated groups coming together for a common cause; that was cool.
Some might call this networking, but I’m more inclined to think of it as cultivating a community-wide positive mental attitude. Sometimes we feel alone and that we can’t accomplish much by ourselves. Well, nearly everyone reading this article belongs to some local group or organization. Pool your efforts. Ask, “How can this group make a difference in the community?” Target small, reasonable goals, focus on specific issues, and build on small successes.
My goal is to foster a culture of success, and we can only do that if we work together. Again, start small, work within the groups you already belong to. Make sure local business and political leaders know that you want to be involved.
I encourage readers to submit their positive, community-teamwork experiences with an online posting or a letter to the editor.
Paul Gorski (http://www.paulgorski.com) is a Cherry Valley Township resident who also authors the Tech-Friendly column seen in this newspaper.
From the Nov. 20-26, 2013, issue