This is my first post about how good it can be to get involved in the issues where we live. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll have a few about what a pain in the hindparts that same involvement can be, but for those who have (or create) the time, it seems true that the good outweighs the bad. And without going too political, I think it’s true that most neighborhoods are better equipped to address at least some of the hurdles we face than our municipal, state or federal governments. This isn’t true across the board, of course, but having seen the good people are capable of its probably true more often than not. This isn’t a statement to absolve our city and county governments of their obligation to be a partner in protecting quality of life, but our communities need neighbor-level involvement to flourish.
The beauty of community is in the energy we put into making our blocks a little bit better. And in the time given to reach out to our neighbors. San Diego, like most cities, is filled with collections of neighborhoods in which people no one ever hears about do herculean things to improve where they live. Some do it for a sense of purpose, others a need to give back. While some seem to do it for the moderate amount of authority the role provides, my experience is the vast majority of volunteers are giving of their time and energy to try to implement a better vision of where they live. In San Diego, the Scripps Ranch Old Pros are a good example. A bunch of friends started a group to make it easier to raise money for their kids and 30 years later they put on one of the best 5K events in the city.
This type of major effort isn’t limited to well-heeled communities. North Park, which is a mixture of ‘haves’ and ‘have lesses,’ has an all-volunteer group that similarly works to make the neighborhoods that make up the community better places to live. The effort is embodied in the work of the Vice-President of the Board of Directors of North Park Community Association, Beth Swersie. Full disclosure, I know Beth personally and have worked with her as a volunteer for years, so this isn’t a disconnected or impartial post by any means. Beth runs the community website for North Park. It’s one of those many not-so-little things that neighbors in communities across the country do that help make the communities more liveable. If you want to know the when, where, or what of North Park, the NPCA website is by far the best place to go. It is run totally on volunteer time and supported with community donations. If anyone ever tried to monetize the amount of time she (or volunteers in other communities) put into helping keep people informed, I imagine the dollar amount would be staggering.
I wanted to put a link in this post that let anyone who read it quickly find ways to get involved in their local neighborhood, school, civic organization or city government. But at least for San Diego I don’t believe such a thing exists. I’m hopeful the San Diego Foundation’s Center for Civic Engagement will provide that type of resource. If we make it easier for people who want to get involved ideally that will be one fewer barrier to them doing so. One organization that has worked hard to do just that is 1,000 Points of Light. I don’t know much about the organization, but it has a mission that can continue to serve in strengthening our communities. Better understanding the reasons more people here don’t get involved is something I’ll be working with some very smart people on, but for now, creating an easy vehicle to allow that community spirit to take hold seems like a pretty good start.
The beauty of community is that it fosters this sense that we can be a better version of ourselves if we work together.