---- — If you were asked to sell someone on Howard County, what would your pitch be? Would you focus on the willingness of others to jump in and help those around them? Perhaps you’d mention the low cost of housing, which made news recently in the Huffington Post. Maybe you’d list our growing number of jobs, the free trolley system, or other upturns that have gotten our area noticed at the state and national levels.
I hope you didn’t have any trouble with that question, as the next one is harder: Whose responsibility is it to make our community a place that is the best possible place to live? I think it’s fair to say that, if given a choice, none of us wants to live in a place that has very little to recommend it. That applies equally to current residents and those we’d like to attract.
Perhaps city or county government comes to mind first. We all benefit from walking trails, parks and flowers in public spaces. I would like to think the public library is also near the top of your list. Every service or event KHCPL offers enhances the quality of life locally. Children are more successful in school and in life if they enter kindergarten ready to read and if they read for pleasure once they learn how. People of all ages lead fuller lives when they are surrounded by opportunities for informal learning, social interaction or the basic technology many of us take for granted. I would be remiss if I omitted the economic factor. Each of us is able to stretch our personal budgets by pooling a small amount of money for shared resources, and who doesn’t benefit from wise spending?
Other local organizations are equally oriented toward quality of life. From promoting art to supporting families, I’m sure you could compile quite a list of organizations whose work centers around this concept. If you include every business or organization that has a vested interest in having our community be safe, attractive and fulfilling, the size of the pool jumps exponentially. Anyone who has ever recruited regionally or nationally to fill a position knows firsthand day-to-day amenities are critically important in attracting employees.
I have one last question. Is the responsibility of creating a great place to live only an organizational one? I don’t think so, and this is where you come in. Ways in which we can take personal responsibility vary enormously. Internships, even unpaid ones, only happen when an individual is willing to supervise someone entering the field. No community will be known for its neighborliness unless people get to know their neighbors. Governmental units, including the library, aren’t perfect, and an outside suggestion may provide a stepping stone to greater excellence. In fact, the library’s Community Advisory Council needs your voice. By attending just five one-hour meetings per year, you could represent that community perspective we are seeking.
Consider this an invitation to own a little piece of making Howard County a fabulous place to live. Contact Bridges Outreach, New Leaf Mentoring or the YMCA to learn how you can build into the life of a young person. Share some fresh fruit with someone who finds it hard to get to the grocery store. Find out what is needed by an organization or small business you frequent. Stop by and talk to me about how the library can enhance your quality of life. Let’s apply locally the words of Mahatma Gandhi: “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”
Faith Brautigam is director of the Kokomo-Howard County Public Library.