“Ask not what your country can do for you, Ask what you can do for your country.” It’s been more than half a century since President John F. Kennedy delivered these words into this country’s conscience during his inaugural address. It’s been marinating ever since but what of it’s outcome? If we had truly heeded those words, would our communities still suffer just as much as they did when he delivered that address?
This being your country, makes you a citizen. As a citizen, you have a duty to your country to be a good citizen. It’s usually based around several themes, which we tend to teach our youth and we all live to some extent. They are honesty, compassion, responsibility, courage and respect. You have to be willing to commit these attributes to your country and for the purposes of this blog, your community.
The key to these attributes is action. As they say, “actions speak louder than words”. We are defined by our actions.
This means that being a good person is not the same as being a good citizen. It’s not enough to be religious, educated, kind, loving or a good mother, father, sister, child, aunt, etc. Your actions have to extend outside of yourself and those closest to you and reach other people within your community or even further. Our mindsets and actions went from “It takes a village” to “All that matters is me and mines”. In the time that this happened, we saw the breakdown of our communities. I cannot deny external factors, however there were internal factors that were equally to blame. Our neighborhoods were safer when nosey Mrs. Josephine used to sit on her porch and watch every single move that every person made. Sometimes she would even meddle in other people’s business. She used to get on our nerves but she made for constant accountability. We were safer because we knew that the adults and families in our communities were aware of us and would not only put us in check but let our parents know that they did as much. For many reasons, we are more isolated now. Neighbors don’t know neighbors and that increases the likelihood that crime will creep into the neighborhood. It also decreases our likelihood building better communities.
Implementation of these attributes gives members of communities the tools to make a difference. We need the courage to take the first steps in even suggesting, let alone acting on change at a time when people are so far removed from building their communities that they either believe nothing can be done or that it’s up to the government to handle it. A sense of responsibility is the tie that will almost guarantee that people are fully committed to helping with this endeavor. If people feel they are forced into participating, they will resist, especially if their goals are related to their immediate family and potentially exiting their community altogether. The golden rule itself requires compassion, honesty and respect. It will attract others to the person exhibiting these traits and their cause.
Ultimately, good citizens are catalysts and the result of their efforts is what builds communities.