Anyone who has spent time with my sister Bonnie will notice a few things that set her apart from average. You may find her wiping around the sink in a public bathroom or in her kitchen washing plastic bags and aluminum foil, then storing them for reuse. Our mother’s words still echo a simple direction: “Leave things better than when you found them.” Those words are relevant every time I open the mailbox to find a “just because I love you” card from her. Bonnie takes this to heart for the immediate and sometimes minuscule result and for the long term.
Recently, I’ve had occasion to evaluate what matters and what doesn’t. It’s not the first time. In fact, I would assume that virtually every human repeatedly ponders whether what they do affects the overall outcome. The conclusion I come back to again and again is that all of my actions make a difference. That difference may be unnoticeable or it may make such a noise that it rings for decades! Some have changed the world forever! Case in point, I believe my children have made the world a better place. In contrast, my words have changed relationships that may have brought significant results to a life, a home, a business, a town. The decision to throw a pop can from your vehicle, blow grass in the street or compliment a stranger means you have added to a positive or negative result! All actions matter and that is how we change the world we live in.
Over Independence Day weekend, as part of an effort to encourage people to relocate to Martin County, the committee sponsored a series of social media posts directed to those who traveled here from somewhere else and to locals who hosted visitors. Videos featured a few people who have moved here and who cited the reasons that the area offers them excellent quality of life. We welcomed comments and received some unexpected results. Some remarks from locals bluntly voiced frustration, disappointment and in a few cases insults toward our community. In short, some residents feel that their community has failed them. It’s difficult to know what actions to implement because I love the place I live! In my eyes, it offers beauty, opportunity, infrastructure and amenities that make my life better.
The situation brought me to question what matters. Does this matter? It does. Can we do anything about it? We can. Where do we go from here? We’ll continue to encourage people here to work, live and raise their families. We will promote affordable housing, excellent educational facilities, recreational and cultural opportunities. We are called to also focus on residents, as well.
Several years ago, Fairmont adopted “Top 20 Thinking,” a worthwhile curriculum centered on four principles: (1) help others succeed, (2) communicate ‘you matter’ to others, (3) honor the absent and (4) see the problem, own the problem. Because the concept focuses on others, instead of our own needs, I believe we can promote our community to excellence for residents, visitors and future residents. The local Top 20 effort is a project of The Youth First Initiative. Youth First is a local non-profit whose mission is to mobilize community resources to achieve the healthiest and most successful youth possible through positive development and effective prevention from birth to young adulthood.
I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to mention two people who recently announced their retirements: Administrator at MCHS-Fairmont and Fairmont Area Chamber Board Member, Bob Bartingale will retire at the end of the year. He and his wife Joan, have immersed themselves in dozens of community projects since moving here 6 years ago. There’s still a lot of work to do before December! Fairmont Police Chief, Greg Brolsma who announced his retirement effective October 31st, has worked in law enforcement in Fairmont for 30 years. I admire his unwavering commitment to seeing the person instead of the problem. Both men are members of Youth First.
One final note: This is a personal invitation to you to get involved. There are lots of ways to do that. A few suggestions are:
Call me. I will talk to anyone about making our community better.
Volunteer. Call the Chamber office for a list of local organizations and contact information.
Do one thing today that helps someone else. It can be as simple as holding the door for someone or saying “thank you.”
Shop locally. Every dollar that stays here is an investment in our community.