Cleaning out a desk drawer recently, I came upon two postcard-sized lists that I apparently had saved because they seemed to gibe with each other: How to Build Community, and 150 Ways to Show Kids You Care. From the print dates on them, both appear to be at least 10 years old, but still very current. Given the negativity that seems to permeate public and private discussions these days, it seems appropriate to review the suggestions.
The How to Build Community piece was developed by SCW Community, based in Syracuse, New York. Among their suggestions: Turn off your TV, greet people, look up when you’re walking (and I would add, smile), pick up litter, use the library, organize a block party (I did this last year on my street, and it was fun!), open your shades, listen before you react to anger. Dance in the street was one of SCW’s suggestions, but perhaps you can do that safely in Syracuse! Several ideas focused on food: have potlucks, bake extra and share, garden together, and buy from local merchants (I think this list was prepared before the popular locavore movement).
Search Institute in Minneapolis provided the 150 Ways list, and it reflects many of the same ideas, focused on kids: smile a lot, listen to them, feed them when they’re hungry, read aloud together, encourage win-win solutions, praise more; criticize less, chaperone a dance (there’s that dancing again!), encourage them to think big, marvel at what they can do, forget your worries sometimes and concentrate on them (the kids, not the worries). There are dozens more, but you get the idea.
At the heart of both lists is an appreciation for fellow human beings, based on respect. Children see and mimic what they see and hear adults do. The lists’ positive approaches are not Pollyannaish, but they do take a commitment on our part. Be flexible, be sincere, be spontaneous, be available, be happy, be consistent, be relaxed, be honest, be yourself, be nice. Sounds easy enough, but sometimes harder to remember, especially when time is short, traffic is heavy, or dinner is late!
The last item on the SCW list reminds “that no one is silent though many are not heard. Work to change this.” I suspect that, when we practice the 150 Ways with our kids, the How to Build Community part might just take care of itself.
Not coincidentally, the subject for the Mason District Fall Town Meeting is bullying (October is Anti-bullying Month). Join us this Monday, October 15, at 7 p.m., at Mason Crest Elementary School, 3705 Crest Drive in Annandale. I look forward to seeing you there!
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org