News headlines, social media and watercooler conversations are troubling leading up to Election Day. You may have paused to reflect over the last few weeks asking, “What will become of this great nation if we continue to raise our future citizens to be so disrespectful and angry?” Intolerance has become the language and method of practicing civic engagement in many cities — or some might say disengagement.
For 40 years, Leadership Pikes Peak’s mission has been to build a thriving community through leadership and service. Programs that inspire civic engagement provide community leadership training to experienced professionals, young professionals, women and teens. These programs have graduated more than 2,300 exceptional community trustees who are giving back and educating others about how to become outstanding community stewards.
Arguably, what it means to exercise civic engagement remains a personal concept to most American citizens. Most agree that civic engagement means that Americans take pride in their freedom of speech, the right to challenge the government and our desire to create a future better for our children. How we practice our freedoms is where the disagreements seem to begin. Many of my civic-minded ideals mirror the examples set by my North Dakota family members and local community. Colorado Springs, “Olympic City USA,” seems to share those same ideals of community stewardship and civic engagement.
Midwestern values may seem dated and immaterial to our cosmopolitan lives. Colorado Springs ranks in the top 50 most populated metropolitan areas in the United States, yet we maintain small town civic-mindedness. The recent PorchFest in the Patty Jewett neighborhood and so many other great community events make this a great city that makes it easy to become involved on a daily basis.
My parents served their community in so many ways: music teacher, business member, church congregational member, hair stylist, nursing home aide and county commissioner. Dad and Mom taught us many things about civic engagement, volunteerism and community stewardship.
First, they said to never underestimate the value of being courteous to others. A smile, wave or simple “You done good!” is free, even if imprisoned in grammatical errors. Dad freely expresses his appreciation for the efforts of the church choir, community band — or almost anyone — with a “You done good.”
Take time to wave or smile at a stranger. Courteous behavior is the right thing to do — regardless of level, title or something earned.
Nothing is more personally satisfying than a hard day’s work. Nothing in life is free and relatively little is fair, but working hard and taking care of ourselves is something we all have equal rights to, according to my parents. No one can rob you of the pride in knowing that you did a good job. Mom and Dad taught each of us — sister and brother equally — to care for ourselves. We learned to cook, clean, sew, change a tire and balance a checkbook. Dad taught us, “If you can take it apart, you can probably fix it and put it back together.” In Dad’s defense, he only forgot me out digging ditches a few times. Oh, and grandkids should be allowed to use power tools at the age of 6, and toddlers are given paring knives to cook with Grandma at 2.
We learned working hard, being independent, self-sufficient and — most of all — the value of giving back. Those all are valuable civic skills you can use to help your neighbor and fellow citizens. Civic engagement is sharing time, talents and treasures regardless of how insignificant they seem to you at the time. Showing up and having a passion for the community is more essential than a title or special gifts.
Everyone can make a difference. All you need to do is find an organization, cause or service need and invest in a positive change for the community.
One difference growing up in the Dakotas was that diversity consisted of Lutheran or Catholic, which seems silly today given the ongoing strife around the country. Tolerance and acceptance evolve in communities that celebrate even the most invisible differences. Our differences are what make life interesting.
Check out peakradar.com and the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region to learn more about the fabulous local attractions and events that encourage diversity.
Lorelle Davies is director of auxiliary services at Pikes Peak Community College and a member of the board of directors for Leadership Pikes Peak. She can be reached at Lorelle.firstname.lastname@example.org.