Getting others involved, one person at a time

Bringing 'just one person' along on your community journey may not seem to be a big thing. But it has the potential to change everything, Ronda Graff writes.

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I’m going to change that which I can touch.

While all of us would like to make a positive impact on our community, our country, or even our world, maybe we should think smaller, closer. Most of us are more likely to make a difference by doing one simple thing: getting those immediately around us involved, even if it is just one person at a time.

The more people we can get to involve themselves and to take a vested interest in what is happening in their community, the better chance we have to make change, to make a project a success, to make our community an even better place to call home.

Someone once told me, “I’m going to change that which I can touch.” In other words, we should start with those ideas and those people immediately around us.

While this may not seem to be a big enough change, it has the potential to change everything. It very well may be the best way for each of us to make an impact. We are more likely to have a lasting effect on our community if we can bring others along with us on the journey.

To have an even greater impact, we must reach out to others. All of us have unique skills and knowledge that can help others.

When I moved from Omaha to McCook in 1995, my first job was at the McCook Daily Gazette, where I quickly got involved in the community. I got to know city staff, community organizations, and governmental agencies. I also got accustomed to attending meetings, learning schedules, and knowing that nothing will get the paper’s phone ringing quicker than misspelling a name in an obituary.

With that background, I now don’t hesitate to attend a city council meeting. Sometimes I’ll drop in on a county commissioners’ meeting. Or I’ll sit in on a school board meeting whenever my schedule allows. These encounters are now second nature.

But to others, those meetings, with all their rules and guidelines and agendas, can be very intimidating. They can keep the average person from getting involved. There are so many things to learn: Where can I find the meeting agenda? What time does the meeting start? Where is the meeting located? Is it OK to arrive late or leave early? is it OK if I speak? When can I speak?

We all have talents to share, and those of us who know the inner workings of city and county government can serve as a link to those who want to get involved. Many are interested in learning more about ways to get involved,  to learn where their tax dollars are going, or to suggest a project.

And it doesn’t just have to be government meetings where people can get involved. Are you a member of Rotary or the Optimists who are doing good works in your town? Invite one other person to join you for your next program or project. Is there a road race at your town celebration? Ask a friend to walk the course with you.

Maybe it is sharing your experience and passion for something. The Prairie Roots Music Festival started in McCook because a couple of young people asked an older, experienced concert promoter in town to create an outdoor concert. Rather than doing it for them, the promoter collaborated with the young people to develop the series. Now these younger people are more than capable of holding their own concerts.

Whether it’s going to a public meeting, competing in a triathlon, or attending a folk festival, people are more likely to get involved and more likely to be at ease when they go with someone who has experience.

So make that invitation. Reach out to others. Foster those relationships. If we want to make our communities the best they can be, we need to get others involved. One person at a time.

Ronda Graff is a native of Omaha who has lived 25 years in McCook and Southwest Nebraska. She cherishes her roles as mother to seven children and coordinator for the McCook Community Foundation Fund.

For more Civic Nebraska Writers Group columns, click here

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