A sense of community
I don’t consider myself a politically active individual. I have my opinions and ideas and I do vote but I am most certainly not a political activist. If someone asked me to sign petitions, demonstrate for a cause or even attend a political rally of any sort I would politely decline the invitation for personal reasons. I have close friends who may have political orientations on both horizons and to one degree or another I find ways of agreeing and disagreeing in a gentle manner. Most of the time I leave people believing whatever they want. But I am not apolitical or necessarily anti-political. I reason that the best political arrangement would be a benevolent dictatorship, as long as I am the dictator. Fat chance.
However I do believe in something which transcends political issues and that is the idea of community. A sense of community reinforces individual and family importance but also engages people with differing ideas for the common good. It creates a sense of belonging, security and contentment. It gives a common ground for involvement and participation. By definition it is a group that has something in common; a community.
I spent my formative years in the 1960s and 1970s. I am not saying this is good or bad but as much as I like to view myself as an independent, objective and self-made man, I realize there was considerable cultural influence from my community in shaping my ideas, goals and plans. No one is entirely objective and independent as we all have been shaped by the world around us and in turn we shape those within our sphere of influence.
Somewhere in those formative years developed a concept of communes. What does a commune have to do with community? I am sure all of you are swarmped with images of longhaired, seriously relaxed individuals with headbands and a hoe in one hand as they plant turnips, hemp and sunflowers for other like-minded, longhaired, seriously relaxed individuals. A sense of community? Of course, but not exactly what I had in mind. On the opposite end of the spectrum lies the Amish community. Bound by religious and ideological restraints, they also function as a community although vastly different than the 1972 commune outlined above. So where am I going with this?
I had the opportunity to speak before a gathering of community-minded people at the Webster Community Center and after a delightful meal of chili prepared by Friends of the Library we all had a small dose of community. I am partial to libraries because I was born in one; I took my first breath in the section between children’s books and fiction. That’s right. The Grantsburg Library was once a hospital and so I have a special place in my heart for that community library as well.
Anyway, for an evening I was allowed to be a benevolent dictator of sorts and I chose the agenda of community. We have a tremendous asset in a community library that needs to be supported on all levels but for it to survive financially it needs to be viewed as something more than just the library on Main Street. It needs to be viewed as my library; our library. We need to take a personal interest and ownership in the community.
We need to be willing to accept the concept of ownership and the responsibility of ownership without the need to put our name on the deed. Each of us needs to develop the idea that it is my town, my clinic, my hardware store, my church, my grocery store, my coffee shop, my fire department, my hair salon and maybe even my bar and I can get to each of them by walking on my sidewalks and cross my streets. It is my home and I belong.
I had an interesting encounter with someone on a streetcar in San Francisco one sunny afternoon. Doing the typical tourist activities, I jumped onto the side of a streetcar and hung on as its bell dinged and we began the slow uphill journey along the well-worn tracks. Being a rather shy person, I asked the gentleman whose knees were pressed firmly against my ribs if we could be friends. It turned out he was from Viola Lake east of Siren and Webster. On the streets of San Francisco! They traveled widely but called northwestern Wisconsin their permanent home because of all of the wonderful people. They loved the sense of being part of the communities up here. Making eye contact with the stranger on the sidewalk and a friendly hello goes a long way.
This week shop local, say hi to your neighbors, eat at your restaurant and stand out on your street and smile. And while you are at it, check out a book and keep it one extra day. Then pay a generous library fine. After all it is your library.
I have a library card and I approved this message.