Community

I don’t have a lot on my “resumé” when it comes to community. I don’t belong to any high-profile community organizations that you might see in the local newspaper. I’ve never organized a community event. There are no photos of me at a grand opening, or a volunteer recognition dinner, or a committee meeting.

I do think the work done by these community organizations is important. I love attending Lansing Autumn Fest, and participating in Clean-Up Day, and riding with L.O.O.P., and cheering throughout the entire Good Neighbor Day parade. I’m glad Lansing has hundreds of people who help plan, organize, lead, and clean up after these events. Events are a nice way to celebrate community.

But a lot of community is what happens between events. Community is all the little kindnesses we ordinary people show each other just because we’re neighbors:

  • Checking in on a senior during the dark winter months
  • Buying a magazine subscription from the high schooler who wants to go on a class trip
  • Smiling and making small talk to ease tension in a long checkout line
  • Helping shovel a neighbor’s driveway after a blizzard
  • Walking across the street to offer a Tupperware of leftovers
  • Picking up the mail for someone who’s out of town

These kinds of “community events” never make the news or win any awards—but I see them all the time in Lansing. They don’t show up on anyone’s resumé—but without these little community events in our neighborhoods, the big community events don’t have much to celebrate!

Lansing is full of ordinary people with ordinary lives, who manage to be good neighbors and good citizens day in and day out. I’m one of those ordinary people. I want to serve as Trustee not because I believe government can solve all our problems. I want to serve because I believe we can solve them together.

Good government creates a culture that makes it easier for ordinary people like you and me to build a community we’re proud of.

Related posts:

Integrity

integrityAs an Independent candidate for Village Trustee in my hometown this year, I’m advertising “Integrity” as one of my values. And I want people to understand what I mean when I make that claim.

Structural integrity

Most people appreciate that integrity has something to do with honesty or morality. That’s true, but I also like the “engineering” sense of the term, as in “structural integrity.” Achieving structural integrity involves choosing the right materials to bear a load, and making sure each individual piece of material has integrity too. If a solid steel rod turns out to be an alloy, or hollow, or damaged, you won’t be able to trust it to support the weight it’s intended for.

Integrity means wholeness in addition to honesty. There’s a sense of simplicity or straightforwardness—that what you see is what you get. No deception. No pretense. No hidden agendas.

That’s a claim I’m willing to make.

Related post:

Why I’m running for office

I never considered myself “political,” but this year something clicked

Running for office

In mid-November of 2016, several people asked me if I had ever considered running for Village Trustee. I had been approached before and always laughed it off. I’m not well-known or wealthy. I don’t crave power. I’m not even particularly extroverted. I have always been perfectly content to simply be a good citizen.

But the 2016 United States Presidential campaign changed me. And now when I was asked to run for Trustee, something clicked. I thought, I can’t complain about my political options if I’m not willing to be an option. I couldn’t do anything about the national race, but maybe in my little hometown I could play a role. After a few days of thinking and praying and soliciting advice, I made my decision. I’m running for office. I’m running for Village Trustee.

What about LifeLines?

Does running for office fit in with the purpose of the LifeLines blog? I think it does. This site is all about helping people (and businesses, and nonprofits) share their story. And though I wrote my vision and mission more than seven years ago, they seem uniquely appropriate to our current socio-political climate:

LifeLines Publishing Vision
We envision a world where language is used skillfully to—
inspire noble deeds,
organize complex thoughts,
replace cynicism with trust,
preserve historical truth,
and develop richer connections between people.

LifeLines Publishing Mission
We listen to our customers,
ask questions until we understand,
conduct extensive research,
and then craft a message that is
accurate, straightforward, beautiful, and effective.

I want to cast that kind of vision as a Trustee in my hometown. I want to use my listening skills to learn from my fellow citizens, and I want to use my communication skills to share our hopes and wishes around the Village Board room table. I want to replace cynicism with trust—so people and government are working together again. I want to celebrate my town’s diversity and figure out ways for different cultures to develop richer connections.

Finding and engaging

I understand that as people learn that I’m running for office, they may want to find out more about me. And they should. So when prospective voters Google me, this LifeLines website will probably appear in the results. I’m hoping this post can act as a bridge between my life as a writer and my potential service as a Trustee.

I might post future blogs about local political issues, and my current LifeLines subscribers might decide such posts are irrelevant to them. I understand that, and I won’t be offended by any unsubscribes. But I’ve always appreciated the level of conversation LifeLines subscribers have engaged in here, and I’d love it if you’d engage me on these subjects as well.

Thank you! Let’s see what happens!

Leadership and citizenship: a public apology

Citizenship
What is good citizenship? For me, in addition to being a friendly neighbor, and shopping local, and maintaining my house, and going to work every day so I can pay my property taxes, now I will also attend village board meetings and make public comments.

A few weeks ago, someone asked me why I rather suddenly began attending village board meetings and making public comments at those meetings.

It’s a fair question. I have lived in Lansing all my life, and prior to this year I had attended exactly one (1) village board meeting. But around March of this year I began not only participating in meetings, but also attending forums, writing letters, posting blogs, and discussing local politics with family and friends. Why the change?

I don’t really have a good answer to that, but I’ve been thinking about it for a while. And I think what it comes down to is simply this: The older I get, the more I understand the burden of leadership, the blessings of citizenship, and how leadership and citizenship depend on each other to build strong community.

Benefits

All my life, I’ve enjoyed the benefits of living in my little town—pleasant neighbors, beautiful parks, friendly businesses, responsive public services. I’ve enjoyed all these benefits without ever really giving them much thought. I’ve taken them for granted.

Burdens

And when I hear about good people being pressured to resign—or simply feeling ready to give up—it reminds me that the burden of leadership is not easy to bear. And my taking people for granted does not make it any easier. I feel bad about how little appreciation I express for the people who do so much to make possible the kind of life I enjoy here.

Having a good life in a good town requires good leadership. But it also requires good citizenship. And I want to be a better citizen.

So, in addition to being a friendly neighbor, and shopping local, and maintaining my house, and going to work every day so I can pay my property taxes, now I also attend village board meetings and make public comments.

Blessing

I apologize for waiting so long to express my appreciation to my leaders—my Mayor, my Trustees, and all the Department Heads and office staff who have devoted time and energy and money and ideas to leading and serving Lansing.

This small blog is the only forum I have, so I want to use it to publicly say, “Thank you,” and to publicly commit to being a blessing and expressing my gratitude more often. Thank you, leaders, for everything you do to make Lansing the kind of town I can be proud to call home.

Update: Why I’m running for office