Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Exploring our Thankfulness - 11-25-09 Editor's Column

It is again the time of year where we descend upon our families to enjoy turkey (or tofurkey, for those of you that are vegetarian), conversation and of course, Thanksgiving day football.

However, what is it about these things that really represent our thankfulness for what we have been able to experience or receive over the past year?

Within the typical Thanksgiving experience there are a multitude of different reasons we should be thankful for what we have this year.

The easiest of these reasons is the Thanksgiving dinner. With nearly 12 percent of residents in the state of Illinois in poverty and members of our own community unable to partake in a typical Thanksgiving meal, we should all consider ourselves thankful when we sit down to the table for what we believe will be the average Thanksgiving get together.

It’s easy to take the very food we eat for granted when it comes to us in abundance. However, when considering the alternative and that there are those who face it, perhaps we will cherish each bite a little more than in past years.

Another area in which we should consider our blessings is the time we spend with our families. Life is a fragile thing and this is especially true when considering our own families.

The adage of not truly appreciating someone until they are no longer there couldn’t be closer to the truth. The unpredictability of our daily circumstances should suggest giving thought to every moment we spend with our loved ones and taking in every conversation as though it were the last we would have with them.

Finally, and probably the most taken for granted, is to be thankful simply for the things we have. That’s it.

However, by things, I don’t mean “everything.” Instead, I mean the items that we have that make us laugh and smile; the items we don’t need but are fortunate enough to possess.

With so many people in the world going without in so many areas, many of us experience the exact opposite, and we should consider ourselves lucky by showing thankfulness for what we do have, even if we don’t consider it to be much.

This Thanksgiving, no matter what your circumstance, try to enjoy the view.

Businesses Should Serve as our Examples for Giving - 11-25-09 Mahomet Citizen Editorial

With Thanksgiving tomorrow and Christmas just a month away, many efforts are being made throughout the country - as they are each year around this time - to benefit those who are considered less fortunate than others.

Similar to years past, businesses in the Mahomet area are doing what they can to offer help to those who need it most.

Some businesses are holding food drives, others are collecting gifts for children, some businesses are collecting clothing items. Even the village of Mahomet is collecting items to donate to Mahomet Helping Hands.

At every turn there seems to be some way a business or local institution is offering a way for local residents to become involved in this spirit of the season by giving of their time, their money or even some of their goods and lightly used clothing items.

With that in mind, it would seem as though excuses to become involved in the giving process are running thin this holiday season, even with Thanksgiving still a day away. But isn’t that the way it should be?

While it could be viewed as a way of shameless self-promotion to use giving as a way of gaining customers during this time of year, a more likely explanation is that businesses and their owners are exercising their rights - and often times, their desires - to lead their community by serving as the example.

After all, what better way is there to get a cause to the people who can do the most good than to use the reputation of a business? By making that effort to offer a helping hand to those in need, businesses aren’t just fulfilling an obligation, but rather they are filling a need within their communities and are showing how they care about the community in which they operate.

With local businesses and institutions as guides, the community is provided with a prime opportunity to step out of the shadows and offer its own helping hand, whether it be to a neighbor locally or someone they have never met.

This just goes to show that businesses are not simply out to “make a buck,” or to show how giving they can be during the holiday season, but to be examples to the rest of the community in regards to how easy it can be to become involved in something that will resonate with many people.

Just as businesses and other institutions mean to leave footprints on their communities, they also mean to give their customers the resources to leave their own footprints on their communities, in hopes of leaving them better places.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Changing Faces - 11-11-09 Editor's Column

This may sound a little odd, but every now and then I become curious about the people I went to school with and what they have gone on to do.

Thanks to the social phenomenon that is Facebook, I have the opportunity to see what many of them are up to, which is a lot of fun for me because it allows me to continue growing with people I’ve known for years, share my experiences and discuss theirs with them.

The most interesting thing about this for me, however, are the ways in which we have changed, which leads me to consider just how much time and experience (among a slew of other factors) impact who we become.

For instance, the individuals we may have never gotten along with back then might be people we look forward to talking to or hearing about today.

In the same regard, some of our closest friends may be people we now hardly speak to, for whatever reasons.

It is for this very reason I believe the statement “people don’t change,” to be false in its assumption.

The reality, if you ask me, is that people change significantly in life.

I know I have changed significantly over the last few years and continue to do so.

The best example I can provide is the way I handle stress.

Before going to college, I was a pretty anxious individual. If I got stressed, I would - for lack of a better term - freak out. However, I realized that I needed to eliminate the pressure I was putting on myself from my life. So, I decided it was time for a change.

I think for many of us, there is a deep desire to implement changes in our lives that we feel will benefit us and those around us.

But, (and here’s the rub) some of us lack the commitment to make these changes, which creates a situation similar to watching television without a remote: Some of us don’t mind getting up to change the channel to what we want to watch while others will settle for something they don’t like out of laziness.

That said, instead of suggesting people don’t change, I think it’s more appropriate to suggest some people don’t want to change.

The potential is there for anyone do something different than what they are doing right now; the only difference between the ones that do and the ones that don’t is commitment.

Still, another thing I’ve noticed is we often don’t give people from our past the benefit of the doubt when considering whether or not they have changed since we last encountered them.

It’s the typical sitcom moment where the main character meets with a face from the past and tries to get said person to behave the way he or she used to or to get said person to go to a former favorite hangout, only to find a glimpse of the individual they knew before.

It’s easy to say you don’t do this, but everyone does it - sometimes without even thinking about it.

Part of me thinks we do this because we want to take pride in the changes we have accomplished in our own lives by assuming the people we’ve known have experienced none of the same changes since we last saw them. It seems a bit selfish, but I think it is more out of affirmation for ourselves than anything.

Then, another part of me thinks we do this because we never believed some of the people from our pasts could change and by acknowledging the people in front of us as different, we admit our own fault in how we perceived those people.

To be honest, there was a time when I wanted to be right about the people I used to know, if only so I could say “I told you so,” about their situations or their accomplishments. However, the primary reason we seek change in our lives is to better ourselves, for whatever reason.

I realized there was far too much potential out there to simply expect certain things from people or to think I knew the paths peoples’ lives would take them.

And if there’s anything I’ve learned in my short years, it is that people are capable of extraordinary - often unexpected - things. Conversely, they also have the potential to need help when we might have expected them to be set on the right path in life.

The point is, we don’t decide who changes and how, nor is it up to us to determine whether or not those changes suit us. Instead, I think it is our duty to see the potential in our friends, neighbors and those faces from the past and be open to accepting the changes that might have taken place or nurture the changes that could take place.

After all, it’s easier to seek and find change when you have someone who believes you can achieve it and even easier to maintain and build upon it when you encounter people who believe you were capable in the first place.

The next time you see the potential in the lives around you, enjoy the view.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

When it Matters - 11-4-09 Editor's Column

Given the events of the last three days, I would feel irresponsible if I didn’t talk about them in some way.

We currently find ourselves experiencing something that most people, in the back of their minds, hope never happens in their lifetimes in their community.

And why wouldn’t they? More often than not, when one moves to a community, the idea is to move somewhere that feels safe and somewhere with a feeling of home.

Unfortunately, that feeling is likely missing for many in Mahomet today.

However, no one should question whether or not Mahomet is a safe place. As horrific as it is to consider what took place this week, this is still a community in which everyone should feel safe to walk down the street and where residents can go to bed with comfort.

Should we be shaken? Of course we should. But to that end, we should be questioning something other than the safety of our town and exploring something other than how we can prevent something like this again.

Instead, we should be taking this time in the wake of the death of a young woman to come together as a community and demonstrate that we are exactly what the news said we are Monday night while reporting on the matter: “tight-knit.”

For example, our children will more than likely have questions about what happened that we will have to answer with the best of our abilities.

We will likely have friends and neighbors who will need calming and reassurance through the conversations that we have over the course of the next several weeks.

Even our own senses of safety will come into question as many of us will likely end up asking that popular two-letter question, “What if?”

Fortunately, we have the opportunity to be exactly what we need. We can be exactly what our children and our neighbors and even what we ourselves need as we gather more details on this situation.

After all, what’s the point of calling ourselves a community if, instead of banding together for the sake of those around us, we splinter and avoid the chance to talk about things?

In this instance, just as it should in all instances, our social status has no bearing on the fact that we are a community of people who need each other right now.

Now is the time to embody what so many of us take pride in with this community - our ability to band together when it matters the most. Because right now, we are all extensions of same individual, asking the same questions, feeling the same fears and trying to maintain the same calm.