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The 5 Stages of Caring About Your Community


Hi. It's me again. So, I wanted to take a second to talk to you about the process I've recently gone through and what I've been able to take away from it. Hopefully the things I've learned can pass from this screen to your brain and make a tiny bit of difference. Plus, if we're wanting our local government to be more transparent and communicative, might as well play by the same rules.

Step 1: "THEY WANT TO DO WHAT?!"

As I'm sure you've heard there was a "library thing". Once I became aware of it I immediately assumed my fight-for-the-little-guy position. As most of us did, we instinctively were against anything trying to breach the library's turf, even if it was the property beside it. Especially a big bad Iowan gas station chain! So, what did I do? I took to blogging and petitioning. Naturally, I had to make sure this injustice was heard 'round the world!

Step 2: "Oh, okay. More of the story. From people involved. I'm listening."

I went very quickly into my must-find-out-details-and-piece-together-the-puzzle phase. I set up a meeting to speak with the library. I called my parents (they know all). I heard from a city council member. I talked to people involved with downtown. I talked to other people who have been involved in library affairs. Needless to say, there was a lot of Q&A's happening. My mouth was very tired from the Q's and my brain was very full of the A's, but I knew I must press on. As Mulder would say, "The truth is out there". I then settled into my processing phase. That's when I slowly started to see the peak of my outrage start to level off as we headed down a slightly different road.

Step 3: "Wait, wait, wait. This road doesn't look familiar. Are you sure we're going the right way?"

Even if you start out on a crusade for the little guy- sometimes you start veering because the road isn't exactly taking you where you thought it would. There's a saying that goes, "There are three sides to every story; your side, my side, and the truth. And no one is lying." In a situation that involves so many different parties, all of whom are quite large players, there's never going to be a way to break it all down into one simple paragraph that explains the "truth". There are simply humans doing their best to make the best with what they have. The only "truth" that came to light is that communication is imperative.

Step 4: "I'm going to need a doggy bag for everything I need to take away from this."

Once the dust had settled, the Q&A's became less frequent, and nearly 1,000 people had signed a petition I had phrased in David and Goliath lingo, I knew I needed to start reeling in the intense blind passion, and examine everything once more. This whole process opened up a way to see our community and the ones who govern it in a different light. I will never claim to know how hard it is to run a library, I would never assume to know how or why a Planning Commission would vote a certain way, and I definitely wouldn't know what it's like to be on a City Council who has far more knowledge of the story than some crusading graphic designer. What I do know is that we have to ask questions. "Seeking conversation" isn't just a filler for that blank on a dating site. Seeking out conversation in a town where you reside is a badge you should wear proudly.

Step 5: "How you react defines your purpose."

Things did not go the way we hoped. And that's gonna happen. A lot. The powers that be felt they had enough reason to unanimously pass the re-zoning even though we showed up, made our case, and waited for some sort of sign that we were heard. The reaction from the council was less than encouraging, as they seemed very disinterested in what we had to say and more interested in getting out of the meeting in a timely manner. But that's gonna happen. A lot.

Everyone has a purpose. Even if we do not agree with someone's purpose, it's there for a reason. It may be there to spark a new idea that will lead a community forward. It may be there because life isn't always fair. It may be there to shine a light on an ugly truth. Or it may be there to simply let the world know, "this is how it is!" But then again, maybe your purpose is to say "not for long".

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