Our View: A community conversation becomes community action




When the Lowndes County Foundation held a "community conversation," at the Trotter Center in March, there were two competing perceptions -- hope and skepticism. 


There was no doubt that the 200 residents who turned out for the event, representing a diverse cross-section of our community, had the very best intentions in trying to identify the challenges our community faces -- everything from poverty and crime to education and community engagement to leadership and vision. 


That so many gathered to participate was encouraging.  


But, of course, we had heard it all before, many times in fact. 


It is not enough to identify a problem. Practical, measurable steps toward solutions must follow. 


Now, six months after that meeting, we have solid reasons to believe what started as a conversation will result in actual change. 


Wednesday, the LCF took its next practical step, assembling a steering committee of 44 citizens from all walks of life to begin to address each of the issues identified in that spring meeting. 


While it is true that there has never been a statue erected of a committee, we are encouraged by the stated focus of this group, which will feature subcommittees to address each of the five challenges identified in that first meeting. 


There are two ideas that we find particularly promising. 


First, there is an understanding that you can't eat an elephant in one bite. All of the five challenges are large and complex. What the LCF proposes is to focus on smaller, more manageable components of each problem and devote resources toward each. There are resources available -- since 2005, the LCF has awarded $109,000 in funding to 37 organizations in Lowndes County. Using those funds to target specific aspects of these problems represents a coordinated, practical approach. 


How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. This is what the LCF proposes to do. 


The other idea is to change how we think about our community, ourselves and our issues. 


We put special emphasis on the word, "our." When the community sees all of these issues are "our issues," we are far more likely to seek solutions rather than ascribe blame.  


For too long, our attitude about our challenges has focused on pointing fingers, which has created an almost palpable sense of defeatism in our community. 


It's time, past time in fact, to dispense with that negativity. That does not mean ignoring or minimizing the challenges we face, of course. Nor does it suggest that any of the problems can be solved quickly or easily. 


It will take persistence, and a positive, can-do attitude is the food that nurtures persistence. 


Our community faces many challenges.  


But we also have great assets. 


All the raw materials required to meet our challenges are at our disposal. 


As Robert Frost wrote, "But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep." 


The LCF has started us on that long journey toward a better community for future generations.



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