As we close the door on 2012, we reflect on the lessons learned and absorb the challenges with the same grace with which we celebrate our successes. Without question, the economy has continued to cast a pall over many of our lives. The holidays allow us to revel a bit, but in a matter of days, reality sets in again: the bills must be paid.
As much as we want to believe that the news coming at us from all sides — whether it is the tragedy in Newtown or the fiscal cliff or the upcoming legislative session or renewable energy debates — every one of us can make a difference.
To that end, instead of taking the New Year’s Eve inventory in order to set resolutions for the coming year, we offer another set of resolutions that might not affect your waistline but will make for better citizens.
First, educate. Take the time to educate yourself on the issues you are passionate about, as well as the topics that interest you. Knowledge is power, so arming yourself with facts allows you to make more educated conclusions.
Second, engage. Decisions are made by those who show up. It is easy to sit back and whine the day after a vote, but taking part in the process of decisions allows for due diligence. We need all sides to be heard. We need every idea on the table, because, occasionally, it is the overlooked idea that could bridge the sides or resolve the problem.
Showing up can be done in several ways; it does not always require attending the hearing or meeting. Call or write to your elected officials. Share your thoughts, and hold them accountable for the positions in which we have placed them. While they manage the process, they are in place to serve us.
Third, build. Community building is hard work. It, too, takes showing up. But this can be accomplished in a host of ways: volunteering, running for office, serving on committees, attending meetings, writing letters to the editor, hosting or facilitating a discussion group. By taking part, building networks, we strengthen our towns and cities, and we become better suited to achieve our goals and foster a sense of community pride and togetherness.
Fourth, vote. Whenever the opportunity arises, make your voice heard, whether it is at town meeting or for an election (or special election). Don’t regret saying you did not do your part.
Lastly, be open-minded. By doing all or any of the above, you are exercising your right to take part. That means each of us brings our own angle and expertise to a discussion. Politics provides an easy script and offers cover when we don’t really want to stand up for what we believe.
Have the courage to speak your mind without fear of deviating from the majority voice or for fear of retribution. Listen and be willing to compromise and accept other points of view. If more of us said what we wanted to instead of what we were expected to say, our communities would feel more like communities than they do. Unplug from the political machine, unplug from the social media and the Internet, and allow yourself to reach your own conclusion.
Being better citizens is our duty. We should not have to resolve to want to make our towns and cities better places to live today and for our children and grandchildren. It just should be.
As we move into 2013, think about what role you want to play in a better tomorrow. Then do it.
Happy New Year.