Social media is a big part of my job, so I should know better than to read the comments. But I do. And what I see is often discouraging – people in my community complaining about what our town does wrong.
Every place has such naysayers. But if they devoted as much time to actively seeking to better the community as they did to ranting online, can you imagine what they could accomplish?
The next time you hear such negativity, consider offering some of the following suggestions.
Be the change.
If you see a need, find out how to address it. Ask a civic group. Ask your city leaders. Chances are, someone is already trying to tackle the issue. You can help. The local United Way is a great first place to start. They provide lots of volunteer opportunities, and they can plug you in with their member agencies.
Also consider: What does your town do well? If it’s Christmas lights, build events around that. If it’s supporting small businesses, create opportunities to take advantage of this affinity. It doesn’t take an army, just a group of hard-working individuals who share a vision and have diverse skill sets to help make it a reality.
Support others who are adding value.
"I don’t know how to get involved" is a line I hear a lot. But my response is, "You always know someone who is involved. Ask them." The reality is that it tends to be the same people devoting their time and energy to civic projects. But no one can enact these kinds of changes entirely on their own, and if they attempt to do so for very long, they risk burning out and giving up completely.
If you have the means to provide support financially, please do. But it can also take other forms. Many ticketed fundraisers cost less than a dinner out and serve as an opportunity for the organization to share its mission. Once people have a better understanding of how the organization is serving their community – and how hard the people involved are working – they are less likely to complain. And even if the organization’s mission is not one you feel a connection to, you can still help spread the word.
One of the most common complaints in many small towns is that there is nothing to do. So when a small art studio offers a class, gather your friends and make it a girls’ night out. When your Main Street Association hosts a festival, take your family and eat funnel cakes. Run the 5Ks. This is particularly important for new events attempting to demonstrate financial viability and community engagement.
To those of you working tirelessly to improve your community – keep going! And don’t read the comments.
Kristi Thurmon is vice president of marketing for First Security Bank. She also serves as editor of OnlyInArk.com, the First Security-published blog that highlights all the people, places and events that make Arkansas such a great place to live.