Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Taking Pride in Your Village - 5-27-09 Editorial

Everyone is proud of something in life. In the village of Mahomet, pride can often be found in many things throughout the village itself, such as the schools, the parks, the hometown feel and the friendly nature of the village residents.

Still, when it comes to businesses and visitors to our town, are the schools, parks and friendly smiles going to be what leaves a lasting impression? Or is it going to be the cleanliness and healthy infrastructure of the village that leaves people recalling Mahomet with a smile?

Upon first glance, the village is a pretty clean place that glows with beautiful foliage and unique architecture that often includes Victorian-era homes and a classic downtown look. However, if you take a closer look around, you’ll find that there are several ways in which residents could easily show the pride they have in their village.

One example that was brought to my attention are the streets themselves. While many of the residents likely don’t pay much mind to the roads throughout the village, visitors driving on roads like Main Street might have a different view of things.

After all, what should they think about the downtown area when the road to get there is littered with crumbling edges and potholes, a sign that would point to no significant work in a number of years?

Granted, much of this work has to be contracted out before it can be done, but why shouldn’t it be brought up by the citizens of the town as a need?

Another area that can be affected more directly by residents is the necessity for a town cleanup. A perfect example of this need are the different cross streets throughout the village that have unnecessary clutter in them. One need only drive through the ally way by the Citizen office to see automotive parts and garbage that would best serve the village by being disposed of properly.

The only village cleanup efforts that can be spoken of to this point in the village of Mahomet are conducted by the Mahomet Rotary Club each year and small group efforts that are too sporadic to be called annual or otherwise.

Imagine how proud you would be driving down the streets that you helped get the ball rolling on for repairs. Consider the message you would send to visitors, potential businesses and fellow residents when they see and hear that you and others like you were responsible for a village-wide cleanup effort.

There’s nothing wrong with taking pride in the village that you live in. Nor is there anything wrong with extending that pride to areas that others would simply say “someone else will do it.” All it takes is some initiative and a desire to see your village live up to its potential.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Taking That Next Step 5-20-09 Editor's Column

It is again the time of year that graduation gowns are donned, honor cords are distributed and thousands of pictures are taken to remember the occasion that is graduation.

And why not celebrate? Graduation from high school and college signify great steps towards bright futures for many of the students that have put in the time and effort to make it so far.

Still I would encourage the recent (and upcoming) graduates to do a little bit of thinking on their newfound accomplishments, as they can often mean more than just joining the working world or becoming a college student.

For example, many high school students are taking that next step into a world that may seem foreign to them. Many of them will be moving on to higher education that will likely involve living away from home with people they have never met before in a setting that may be unfamiliar to them.

As they take these steps, little do they realize just how profound these experiences will be for them. College has the potential to change everything for an individual and lead to new things that will shape the person that each student will become.

I, for one, cannot recount all of the things that, looking back, I learned about myself and who I want to be from my college experience.

Then there are the college graduates, who have just spent a number of years becoming professionals. I was in their position one year ago and would like them to know this: It is okay to be scared.

Despite the doom and gloom of the job market, if you focus on what you want and are willing to do what is necessary in the mean-time, you will eventually find yourself where you want to be.

I was unemployed for three months following my graduation and worked another two and a half months as a janitor before I was given this job opportunity. Just because you don’t have success right out of the gate doesn’t mean that you cannot have success, it simply means you have to continue working to get there.

Finally, to both the high school and college graduates: There will be failures, but from those failures you will learn a great deal about yourself. Welcome the challenges and never give in to the pressure that will often seem unbearable.

Just remember that each day ends and that momentary inconveniences are not worth allowing yourself to be broken down. Congratulations, class of 2009. Watch your step.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Paradigm Shift 5-13-09 Editor's Column

I’m sure many of us know someone who has at one time or another said, “I’m going to get out of this job and do something I’ve always wanted to do,” or “someday I’ll enjoy my job.” But how many of us have actually seen that person take that leap into the unknown?

While changing gears sounds easy when it’s brought up in discussion, it’s entirely different when it gets down to putting the pen to paper. However, sometimes it’s exactly what the body, soul and mind need.

I had the pleasure this weekend to meet someone who had actually done what so many people often only talk about: she decided to pursue a career that would make her happy.

It was on Sunday morning that a knock on my door revealed two strangers requesting my help in moving a couch from the third floor to the first and then out and into a moving van. Once I was able to get the couch downstairs, I was asked if I could do a little more for $20, to which I agreed.

From there, we meticulously stacked and situated the furniture in the truck and moved it to this woman’s - Linda was her name - graduate housing apartment on the University of Illinois Campus.

Once we had arrived, we not only moved the furniture into the cellblock-like structure, but we conversed about our different backgrounds.

Linda was a 53-year-old veterinary medicine student with eight months left of her schooling. She had purchased the furniture that we were moving into her new, but temporary, home with eggshell-white walls, for a total of $300 and even then, she felt that she had too much furniture.

However, that is not what interested me most about Linda. What interested me was that Linda, originally from Canada, had been working for the better part of the last 20 years in New York City with various pharmaceutical companies as an advertising specialist. She was also involved with the art scene and enjoyed the diversity that some of the city’s neighborhoods had to offer.

However, it reached a point that the work she was doing - in her opinion, helping the drug companies hold hostage the consumers that needed their products to survive - no longer appealed to her, nor did wearing the black suits and board meetings.
So, Linda, a woman who had never previously experienced debt and had a lucrative career in front of her, gave everything she had away and decided to become a veterinarian.

Now, even with around $300,000 in school debt, Linda - a student that forever wants to learn - finds herself in the driver’s seat of her life.

She plans to use the degree she is earning from the University of Illinois to travel the world and help villages and needy people and animals, enjoying life for what it is worth, one day at a time.

After I left Linda, having received more than $20 could by just by the interaction, I couldn’t help but wonder what stops us from taking that leap? What are we afraid of that keeps us from stepping out of our own shadows and finding the light that will breath life into us?

Simply put? Failure. We are afraid to fail, so we do what we know and try to stay there. However, sometimes life requires us to step outside that comfort zone and put ourselves into situations that might otherwise feel compromising, but those that could prove to be the best decisions of our lives.

Will there be bumps along the way? Of course there will, but the chance of experiencing such a level of self discovery is not without its pitfalls, nor should we expect it to be.

I suppose the point I am trying to make is, when people say “nothing ventured, nothing gained,” or any other saying of the nature that would hint to taking that leap of faith, maybe we should think a little bit harder about it.

Maybe there is a career move that you would like to make, but you’re afraid of failing, even if you know you could do it with a little bit of effort. Perhaps there’s a new opportunity in your company but the responsibilities scare you. Or, maybe you’re like Linda and you need to shift gears completely and rediscover what it is that drives you. Whatever the case, don’t let the fear of failure prevent you from potential greatness.

And, on a side note, if you hear a knock on your door, don’t be afraid to answer it. Sometimes the best things in life are the unexpected conversations that you have that come from a simple knock on the door.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Healthy Education - 5-6-09 Editor's Column

I would feel left out of the loop if I didn’t write something - anything – about the swine flu pandemic that has people everywhere concerned for their health and safety.

However, I feel that the best way of approaching this issue as it currently stands is to tell you something that most news outlets haven’t yet: Take a deep breathe and calm down.

I think it’s far too easy to get caught up in the panic of something like swine flu, or H1N1 - an influenza type A subtype, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - as it is now known.

This is true to the point that we tend to ignore the opportunities we have to understand what it is we are dealing with and what the consequences of our reactions can, in themselves, do to our health.

One of the first things that we should understand about this flu is that its symptoms are not much different than the typical influenza that are so often immunized against. Just like other strains of the flu, it can show such symptoms as fever, headaches, body aches, coughs and sore throats.

Did you know that according to the CDC, every year, nearly 200,000 people catch the flu and around 36,000 people die from flu-related causes?

What separates this flu from what many of us have no doubt experienced is its chances of reaching our lungs if left untreated, which is why it is considered more dangerous. In fact, there may be several more cases out there that are unaccounted for, especially if the infection is weak and working against a healthy immune system.

That being said, perhaps instead of allowing ourselves to become worked up over the possibility that we might get sick, we should focus on what we can easily do to prevent sickness.

Many of the best was of averting sickness are to do what should be common knowledge by now: Wash your hands after using the restroom or doing something that has dirtied them, cover your mouth when you sneeze (also washing your hands if you sneeze into them) and simply staying away from people you know who are sick.

The masks you often see on television? They offer very little protection, according to a recent report by NBC’s Robert Bazell on what the public should know about H1N1. He suggests that the only people who should be concerned with wearing over the counter surgical masks – which can easily be compromised – are people working in laboratories and hospitals.

Another misconception is that this strain of influenza is transferable through pork products. This is, in fact, not true. According to the CDC, “H1N1 viruses are not spread by food. You cannot get this new HIN1 virus from eating pork or pork products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork products is safe.”

Yes, that’s right, you can eat a hot dog or a piece of bacon without fear of becoming sick. As well you should, because the more you worry about becoming sick and stressing yourself over whether or not you may catch H1N1, the greater your chances of becoming sick anyway.

According to Elizabeth Scott, a stress management specialist and family counselor, estimates suggest that more than 90 percent of doctor visits are due at least in part to psychosomatic reactions to stress. This means that if you are experiencing a great deal of stress, your body will manifest physical symptoms that may resemble certain illnesses.

The basic jest of what is going on with this pandemic should be very clear to the public: If you’re healthy, then simply keep doing what you’ve been doing while making sure you are washing your hands and using good hygiene practices.

And if you catch H1N1? Handling it is easier than the hype might suggest. Contact your doctor or a local physician about the symptoms and sickness and get treated for them. The only thing that might put you in harms way is inaction. Even if some of the aforementioned information doesn’t settle your stomach, perhaps the fact that a vaccine for H1N1 may be ready as early as June will.

Did you know that every year, nearly 200,000 people catch the flu and around 36,000 people die every year from flu-related causes?

In my honest opinion, the only thing we have to fear about the H1N1 outbreak is the fear that can easily be spread through misinformation and misunderstanding. Therefore, do yourself and others a great service and take the time to read about the H1N1 influenza instead of going by what you hear – it may help you more than you think.