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Key to Community Growth, Heal Thyself!

25 July 2023

David Hume once said, “It’s when we start working together that the real healing takes place.” Many communities have been struggling for decades trying to find that magic ingredient to shake them out of their economic slumber.  All the strategic plans and the money thrown at that problems haven’t made a difference.  All the consultants and studies won’t fix anything until the citizens decide that they want their community fixed. Without that key ingredient, nothing will really change.

I read a great column recently by Jeff Siegler, he said, “Instead of throwing money, jobs, and plans at the problem, we must heal residents first. We can’t lift a city up from the outside, a city must find a way to lift itself up, and we as consultants or funders or planners can only really provide guidance, we can’t fix anything. The real solution is in helping residents to care again. It’s the only solution”.

It went on to share an epiphany he had years ago, “I had an epiphany a few years back. It landed hard. I was growingly increasingly frustrated that I couldn’t figure out a way to help so many of the places I was working with. I realized that the problem wasn’t an issue of these towns not knowing what to do to heal but being too apathetic to bother. All the great advice in the world won’t matter if there is no energy to execute. I discovered the real culprit was rampant apathy. As I was trying to sort this out and BAM, another epiphany. This one stung. Pride is the antithesis of apathy. The opposite of a lack of concern is concern. A lack of care is what we are all dealing with and that requires a very different solution”.

In essence, what Jeff is saying that to overcome apathy and a lack of concern, people must become concerned enough to do something and build enough pride to overcome their apathy.  Have the residents in any given communities been given reasons to overcome apathy? Or have many communities removed much of what was built generations ago that instilled that much needed pride?  Downtowns have become abandoned and have given way to strip malls on the community outskirts. The local grocery and other retail establishments have given way to Dollar Tree.  Walkable downtowns and communities have given way to cars and parking spots.  Buildings have been neglected and have thus deteriorated. It is difficult for locals to care when many of the element’s worth caring about have been removed and stripped away.

That being the case, as jeff goes on to say, “the solution is caring and pride”. Community revival is based on people caring, leaders caring, churches and organizations caring, in essence, everyone caring and taking pride in where they live.   Spotting a community where people care and take pride is easy, it will be clean, it will have gathering places for citizens to come together.  It will have an army of citizens willing to step forward and tackle issues that otherwise may drag the community down.  One thing is certain, while apathy remains, little if any progress will be made. We must give our residents reasons to care again.


John Newby is a nationally recognized Columnist, Speaker, & Publisher. He consults with Chambers, Communities, Business & Media. His “Building Main Street, not Wall Street,” column appears in 60+ newspapers and media outlets. As founder of Truly-Local, he assists chambers, communities, media, and businesses in creating synergies that build vibrant communities. He can be reached at: John@Truly-Local.org.