Author: Jack Storey, Executive Director
Employer: FUEL (Franklinton Urban Empowerment Lab)
“Caring for a community is tough; convincing others to care about their community is tougher.”
When asked to write this blog post, I stumbled for a little bit. I work in Community Development, an “industry” that is defined by being a steward of places. How then, to accurately represent that in short form, and without rambling too intensely? I’ve decided to write it about personal responsibility, and not career-based responsibility. In these precarious times, I thought it might be more prudent to extol the values of individual community development.
People often ask me what I do for a living. I mostly respond with some version of “I try to empower folks in specific geographies to stand up for themselves; provide from themselves and their families; and to feel engaged in their citizenship.” Of course, my day to day is more about building affordable housing and providing specific programming for residents to help them achieve the loftier statement above, but that’s the boring stuff. The bottom line is this: caring for a community is tough; convincing others to care about their community is tougher.
I believe it is crucial for individuals to begin acting as stewards of their communities. You don’t have to build housing, but you should attend neighborhood meetings, host BBQs, or offer to lend your neighbor your lawn mower. It sounds easy, but even I stumble to fully live that kind of existence on a daily basis. It takes true effort, and with so many words, I hope you’ll find the inspiration to put that effort in for the sake of your community’s wellbeing.
You could start a block watch program if you don’t already have one; there are countless examples online. I could ramble on, citing great examples, but I’ll keep it short and sweet by asking you to do one thing: Get to know at least FIVE of your neighbors. I don’t mean get to know their faces from the inside of your car as you politely wave while driving past them. Get out of your comfort zone, walk over, and knock on the door. Introduce yourself, ask them a few easy questions about themselves, and finally: Invite them to dinner at your home. It’s easy and it changes the world. Your world. I can tell you that putting in the effort to get to know and befriend my neighbors has given me many gifts, and it is a constant reminder that the world – even though it seems to be constantly on fire – provides some amazing good just outside your front door.