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Community Involvement: What’s In It for Me?

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Why should you get involved in your community?

It’s a question that you may not know the answer to. If you’re a citizen and you don’t know the answer, there is little reason for you to take time from your day to attend a public meeting or volunteer at a local event.

If you’re a leader in your community and you don’t know the answer, there is little hope of you connecting with your citizens.

Paul Born, author of “Deepening Community,” says the reason you should get involved in your community is simple: It’s your responsibility to the people around you.

“This connection strengthens the bonds between us,” he writes. In other words, your involvement builds a strong community.

But what is a strong community? One that can bench 500 pounds without breaking a sweat? Out last the next town over in a grand civic tug-of-war?

Metaphorically speaking, maybe. A strong community can withstand economic challenges,bounce back from natural disaster, even make a huge comeback after decades of dwindling population.

But Born’s point is that you shouldn’t think about community as the physical space around you. Think of it in terms of your relationship to that space and the people working and living within it:

  • This is your town. Only you can make it a place that’s beautiful, welcoming and comfortable – for you. Born goes on to say, “Community is not automatic. We cannot stand on the sidelines and just hope that things will work out.”
  • Being a leader is exciting. Taking a more active role in decision-making – either by leading the public to get involved or becoming a more involved citizen – can be a very satisfying experience. Taking ownership and pride in the improvements your city makes is a reward for stepping up to the challenge. Just don’t let the power go to your head next time you have the remote.
  • Your voice is powerful. “Act as if what you do makes a difference.” Despite the skepticism with which you may view politics in Washington, heed these wise words from psychologist William James. In your city, town or county, your opinion matters more than you may think. Denton, Texas, would never have enacted a ban on texting and driving if voters in its online forum hadn’t first shown their support.

When it comes to the challenges affecting you, no one knows better than you as a citizen what it will take to find solutions.

Just remember – community is more than buildings and streets. It’s the people around you. Getting involved means deepening the connection you have with those people, and making the lives of your friends and family happier.

So maybe the question really is, why wouldn’t you get involved in your community?

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