Imagine .. close your eyes and think about where you live – your neighborhood. What does it look like? Imagine walking the streets; looking at the broken playground at the elementary school down the block, the vacant lots riddled with weeds. Imagine the elderly woman outside the blue house that hasn’t been painted in years. You haven’t seen her in a while. Does she still live there?
Imagine looking inside the local middle school where you know there are children that have fallen behind and could catch up with just a little extra help – but won’t get it. And think about how they will probably drop out … forever handicapping their future.
You walk down Main Street. Remember when it was “the place” to go, whether you wanted a gift for your daughter’s birthday, those few special grocery items or even that “once-a-month” night out. It’s not the same now. The Walmarts, chain restaurants and big box stores have made those memories a distant thing of the past.
For the first time in recent history, the average life expectancy in the America has declined. A deadly mixture of obesity, and addiction is propelling us into an abyss of sickness; physical, mental and social. Loneliness and isolation has overtaken our increasingly older population, especially in smaller towns. Our very well-being, individually and collectively, is under attack.
Once firmly grounded by generations of locally owned businesses, our communities have lost their roots. The leadership these owners provided has been displaced by transient box stores and Wall Street based chains. Schools are now more concerned about budgets and standardized tests than they are about children. Local beautification efforts, well – that’s a thing of the past. Food banks are full of patrons, but food on the shelves … not so much.
The camaraderie our neighborhoods and small businesses provided that brought us together has turned into irreconcilable political partisanship and divide. Rather than seek out neighbors, we stay in our houses glued to the cable news channels we’re addicted to. Our neighbors are that in name only. The spirit of our neighborhoods – one where we looked out for each other is one of our parents and grandparents … not ours. These broken connections have created an attitude of “government will solve everything.” This passive sheep-like disconnect from our communities has allowed us to rationalize our neglect of civic responsibility.
Our communities need help. And the man on the white horse, the man in the white hat … well he’s not coming.