Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The View From a Little, Green Park Bench - 9-23-09 Editor's Column

The places we go and the things we experience there have a funny way of resonating throughout the courses of our lives.

We always remember some of the tiniest details about places we have been based on how good or how bad the memories we have there are.

For example, I lived in Champaign until I was five years old before moving to Mahomet, and the things I remember about the house I used to live in often astound me.

I recall the stairs just inside the front door and time that I tried to mimic the movie Home Alone and sledded down them in a suitcase.

At the opposite corner of the room - the family room - was where we always put the Christmas tree and I would magically find the presents my parents had stayed up all night wrapping to keep me believing in Santa for one more year.

From there, we would walk through a doorway that led to the kitchen on the left, with a view of the backyard.

And, my personal favorite spot, was the sand pit that I would play in for hours on the west side of the house. Many G.I. Joes fought bravely there.

And that’s just the beginning of this iceberg that so many of us call life.

Recently, I added another location to the many that fill my mind as important places in my life, and this one has the simplest of demeanors: It is a two-seat, green, shaky park bench.

It’s located here in town and I had the opportunity to sit on it earlier this week, as I have so many times throughout the last year, and enjoy good conversation with good people.

The reason this simple bench resonates so much with me now is because even the best memories we have - the ones that stick out to you the most for whatever reason - don’t have to come from time spent on vacation or away from home.

Sometimes the best memories are made in places where you have good friends and good conversations.

I know for a fact that I’ve had some great conversations sitting on that simple bench, and that conversely, some of the conversations I’ve shared there have been about sensitive topics.

However, I can say with confidence that I’ve learned a great deal about myself and about people and my thoughts on them just based on the conversations I’ve shared there.

For those of you who know about the bench I’m referring to, the next time you sit down for a conversation there, think about how that conversation might open up new doors in your life, new windows in your views and new paths to your train of thought. Just make sure you don’t forget where it took place.

Whatever the case, and wherever the conversation takes place this week - green park bench or not - make sure you enjoy the view.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Those Before Us 9-16-09 Editor's Column

Perhaps this will sound a bit morbid, but each time I look at an obituary - especially those of senior citizens - I can’t help but think about what the world lost with that person’s passing.

I sit and wonder about the things that each person accomplished while on Earth and what kind of impact it had or who was inspired by it and what that meant for those who followed in their footsteps.

Then I get to thinking, am I taking advantage of the people in my life who have done great things or have great stories to share about their life experiences?

The best example of this that I can cite are my parents. There is a lifetime of experience that they have and things that even I have never heard about, but I’m sure many lessons that I could apply to my own life.

In that regard, I do try to glean what I can from them when they have advice or when they share a story that I haven’t heard before.

After all, why shouldn’t I? While the popular response is to suggest that people my age think we know everything there is to know already, I take no shame in admitting that there are a lot of things that I have yet to do that my parents, grandparents and many of my family members have done first.

While generational gaps will provide plenty of moments that my parents will need my knowledge, I know for a fact that I have asked more questions of them than they have of me.

The fact of the matter is, there is a wealth of knowledge resting directly in the hands of the generations that have come before us, whatever the age.

While there is a great deal of history to learn about from books and what we hear about in school, there is also a great deal of it that we can learn from the people closest to us who actually lived it and were part of history.

That being said, I would encourage everyone to take the time and ask someone who is your senior about his or her life and what happened in it. Perhaps you’ll hear about a great accomplishment that you never knew about. Maybe you’ll hear about a new perspective regarding a historic event.

Don’t let the knowledge and experiences of those before us go without being shared. After all, we are the ones who will carry on the stories and the memories.

And remember, with each new story, be sure to enjoy the view.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Correction to 9-9-09 Editorial

In the Sept. 9 edition of the Mahomet Citizen, the editorial regarding annexation incorrectly indicated that residents not living within the village limits did not contribute to the schools that their children attend. This information was incorrect in that village residents and non-village residents alike pay school district taxes on their properties, especially if a student is attending a school within the district. The statement indicating the contrary was made in error and the Citizen regrets this error.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Annexation Shouldn't Mean Alienation - 9-9-09 Mahomet Citizen Editorial

Among the issues that have surfaced over the recent weeks in the town of Mahomet has been the desire of many area residents to not be annexed into the village limits.

Their feelings are so adamant that they have rallied together to confront the village administration about possible plans to bring them into the village using forced annexation (annexing a property that is surrounded on at least three sides by village property or property within the village limits).

They have petitioned and they have spoken, as well as emailed their concerns, taking full advantage of their rights to free speech.

However, that still does not address the issue at hand, which is, should their request to remain unannexed be honored? Or should they come to terms with thought of being part of the village of Mahomet?

On the one hand, you have residents who moved to Mahomet and purchased the properties that they did because it wasn’t in the village and they could take advantage of the property as such (no leaf burning, no village taxes, independent water and sewer, etc).

Many individuals at the village meetings contended that had they known they would have been annexed, they would not have purchased their properties for the very aforementioned reasons.
In short, if they wanted to be part of the village, they would have purchased property within the village.

On the other hand, however, you have the village, which is contending that bringing these previously unannexed properties into the village limits will bring with it a unity that a community such as ours needs to thrive.

Additionally, what about the people living in the village limits who live - at times - directly across from those who do not? They pay village taxes while people who are sometimes a matter of feet away pay nothing yet receive the advantages of village services like snow removal.

Then you have the schools, which are arguably one of the most important aspects of this community. They send their students to the schools (as they should) but don’t aid in maintaining them with their property taxes.

It isn’t just about the money, either. Perhaps there is an issue that is to be added to the next election ballot that could have major implications to all residents - village and non. Non-village residents are encouraged to lobby for their own particular point of view and get support from voting members of the village, but if they are given the opportunity themselves to become voting members, they would rather not.

It’s easy to be content in a place that you call your own, especially when you don’t have to deal with the interference of outside sources.

But how much of an interference is it really to have the village that you are benefiting from telling you that they want to make you part of that community and they want you to be part of a village that is whole, not scattered in pieces.

If it’s the tax issue, let’s be honest, no one wants to pay taxes, especially if they’re being added onto what we already pay. However, there comes a point when responsibility falls upon us to do what is necessary, even in cases when we would otherwise disagree completely.

Perhaps it’s the rules that would have to be followed once becoming part of the village that leave a bad taste in so many mouths. The burning issue itself is something that has caused a stir in this regard, leading many people - both village residents and non - to express their continued outrage with the process. However, like many changes, this too will require some adjustment that we are all very capable of making.

Whatever the case may be, there may be many people against the idea of being annexed into the village of Mahomet, but from what it ultimately boils down to is taking the time to be a complete citizen of this town and that means taking the good with the bad and acknowledging responsibilities that have been laid before us.

With as much contempt as the issue has been met with thus far, the result will be a village that epitomizes its title and the essence of what we often call it: A community.

Stop Complaining 9-2-09 Editor's Column

I’m fairly confident that everyone, everywhere, could complain about something at this very moment.

Some probably are too, which is funny to me considering so many people say that they “can’t complain,” when they are asked how they are doing.

However, the truth of the matter is, we can complain and many of us do so on a regular basis.

Some of us complain about our jobs because we feel undervalued, underpaid, overworked or just plain tired of the place.

Others complain about our financial situations and talk about all the things we wish we had, implying a sense of entitlement.

And, still more complain about the various people around us as though we epitomize what it means to be a model citizen.

However, as someone who says “I can’t complain,” on a regular basis, I’d like to think that we really don’t have any reason to.

There will always be those moments at our jobs that make us want to scream, but that comes with the territory. It’s not like we grew up to expect everything to be peachy all the time, so to expect things to work in our favor at all times is simply unreasonable on our part.

Then there’s the money issue. It always seems to be a case of “I never have enough of it,” or “I wish I could get more of it,” when in reality, the only things we should be concerned about paying for are our bills.

There are so many people that barely make enough or have enough income to support their families with food or to make their house payments or to fix their cars so they can get to work, yet I hear on a regular basis, people who are mad about not being able to buy a television or an Xbox game.

Really? Is it that important? Or can you survive just fine without it?

Finally, we come to complaining about people. It took me a while to learn this, but the only people whose opinions should matter to us are the ones we care about.

People we have just met don’t know who we are or what we stand for. They don’t know how hard we work or anything about our values. That’s why we brush them off and worry about the people who do matter in life, like our wives, husbands, parents and siblings.

These examples are just the tip of the iceberg. I challenge you to write down what you complain about this week and put that list away. In a month, review them and ask yourself whether or not it was worth complaining about.

And remember, as you go down a new road today, enjoy the view.