Someone recently asked me if I ever felt like I was preaching to the choir with my columns. He said he felt the people who read my columns are the same people who already take a positive attitude toward community. He guessed my readers are probably the 20 percent in the 80/20 rule. (The rule states that 80 percent of the work is done by 20 percent of the people). He figured the ones who could use the wisdom in the articles either don't bother to read them, or they do read the articles but think it doesn't apply to them. I told him, "Absolutely not. I don't feel like I am preaching to the choir because when it comes to investment in yourself and your community, there is no choir."
What did I mean by that? I am a firm believer that we can always improve and a reminder from time to time is helpful. Even if you are already investing in yourself or your community, there is always more opportunity. And when we engage, we might inspire someone else to do the same. When people are engaged in their community, each positive step forward is a positive step forward for everyone. I believe that the whole really is greater than the sum of its parts. That's how a community works. Any time an individual improves or engages, it improves the whole.
He asked me how I keep myself from getting frustrated by the people who don't want to invest in their community. That's a very good question. I do get frustrated. But I quickly get over it because it's not worth it. It's unrealistic to expect 100 percent participation from 100 percent of the community, 100 percent of the time. But we can work toward that, and we can continue to move forward with those who want to improve and grow. If we let our minds play tricks on us and distract us from doing the right thing, or the best thing, we won't get anywhere. The hope is that through our passion for making our community a better place, we inspire someone else along the way and let others inspire us. Even if it is just a little bit of inspiration, or just one person, it is worth it.
I asked him what inspires him. He said he is inspired by his desire to provide for his family. I told him I'm inspired by seeing the change and growth in myself and the community, and by knowing I'm giving back to a community that has given me so much. After our conversation, I asked others what inspires them. Here are some answers I received: "Success - happiness at all levels." "The desire to help others." "Being happy and healthy for my kids." "Wanting this community to be a place for my grandkids to enjoy." "Wanting to do my part." It was great to hear so many different inspirations.
I told my inquirer that when you wake up and ask yourself what goals you could achieve that day to make the community a better place, at the end of the day it's a much better feeling to have accomplished something, no matter how small, than to feel defeated because you succumbed to the frustration of others not engaging.
I'm really glad he had that conversation with me. I continue to think about it. I get a lot of feedback on these columns. But the reality is they have been incredibly valuable to me. They keep me accountable (I'd never write about something I wasn't willing to do myself) and they have given me another lens through which to see and analyze the world. I challenge you to continue to find what inspires you. If you know what that is, thrive on it. Use it to dig deep to get through bad days. Use it to inspire others. I asked the guy if he was happy. He said he was, mostly. I asked him if he was in the 20 percent in all areas of his life. He said no but he was working on it. I hope you can say the same. Continue to work on it is all we can do, but that makes a world of difference.
Jackie Krawczak is the executive director of the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce. Her column runs bi-weekly on Tuesdays.