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Editorial: New Year offers opportunity for community

One of the most common resolutions made each year around this time is to make no more resolutions. That speaks honestly to the success of many well-intended New Year’s resolutions. But resolutions can serve a helpful role in our lives.

Resolutions are a way of looking back over a year with humility, of taking stock of what has been accomplished in the year past and of looking ahead to what we would like to accomplish in the year to come.

In this increasingly shortsighted and wandering world, it may be the only thing resembling a goal that many people set. Unfortunately, many are promptly forgotten or discarded in the haste of everyday living. But even then, for a brief moment at least, they bring a desire to improve along with conscious thought about the future.

Many resolutions are personal: lose weight, be a better spouse or parent. But resolutions can make a community better, too, one person at a time.

Here are a few, for starters, that might brighten this community a bit in the coming year:

For individual citizens

• Give more — Volunteer at a school, library, hospital or one of the host of other worthwhile efforts that go on every year. It’s impossible for one person to do it all, but a few more helping hands mean more gets done more quickly.

• Give more, the sequel — If you don’t have a favorite charity, pick one and give. If you do, vow to give a little more. If everyone gave just a little bit (or a little bit more) the results would be spectacular.

• Get involved — One of the biggest complaints from government folk is that the “public” never gets involved until the decisions are made and one of the biggest complaints from “the public” is that government just doesn’t listen. But in order for government to listen, people have to be there to speak up. With all the meetings that go on around town, it’s impossible to attend all of them, but attending one a month is doable. It is your school, your city, your district, your port. And of course it’s your money they are spending.

• Befriend a kid — The more people believe in, support and urge young people along, the better the future will be.

• Know your neighbors — that’s what makes a friendly community. Friendliness and acquaintance can help dispel fear, distrust and alienation.

For community leaders

• Listen first — But not just to the same small group of other community leaders. Welcome and seek out fresh opinions and new ideas.

• Deliberate — Not every project is right for this particular community at this particular time. Leadership requires making choices and sometimes the best choices may not be the easiest or the most glamorous. They may be tough, gritty, and no fun. But necessary, just the same.

• Recognize common needs — Quite often, the people who need schools are the same people who need roads or electricity or fire protection. Government is about solving problems and providing for needs. If each agency is scrapping to protect its own turf, the common and basic needs of the community may be ignored.

• Work together — Divisions can run deep, and the new year is a great time to reset the dialogue both between agencies and between leaders and their constituents. Divisions can tear a community apart, often leaving bitter feelings for years to come — but they can be overcome and the community will be the better for it.

• Value the money — Every tax dollar collected came from someone’s pocket. Resolve to ask, before spending that money, whether or not it is necessary and the best use of those funds.

Resolutions are one way that human beings can help direct their thoughts and actions on more deliberate and beneficial paths.

Take a moment this year to resolve to make your community better.

— The Dalles Chronicle first published Dec. 31, 1998


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