Sunday, January 31, 2010

Final Mahomet Citizen Column - The Best Is Yet To Come

I've been pondering how I would write this column for the last couple of days, and have found that there are far more things to say about my experience in Mahomet than would fit into this, my final column for the Citizen.

However, I've never been one to let word limits get in the way of what I hope is a shared feeling and message.

For nearly a year and a half I've tried to share with you the parts of me I think reside in everyone. I think there are basic components to everyone that allow us to be so caring, understanding, resourceful and resilient and I think part of me hoped that by sharing these things about myself, those of you reading my columns would try to find what brought these things out in you.

I do know that as a community, Mahomet is all of those things and more. I've had the enormous honor to learn about this community from the inside out over the last year and a half and I can safely say, I learned more about Mahomet in that time than I learned in the 15 years that I lived here. For that, I cannot express enough gratitude.

There are people in this community on all levels that I would like to thank, but to be honest, it would take more space than is in this entire newspaper.

For those of you who I have interacted with, for every story I've written and every interview I've done, I've been able to see the very thing I became a journalist to see - the human condition and the struggles, triumphs and excitement contained within a single community.

I'll be honest, it was hard for me to not see Mahomet as a bedroom community when I first started, because that was what I knew about Mahomet coming into things.

Even now, there are residents who believe Mahomet is nothing more than a bedroom community, which may be true, but only half true, if anything.

The other side of that truth is, there is a community growing in so many directions it doesn't know which one is best. While that may seem like a slight, I encourage you to see it as the enormous potential that your community not only has, but the potential that you as a resident have to have your hand in that growth.

I've never been somewhere that a community was so engaged in its own future and even now, you've only begun to scratch the surface of where you can go. Being part of that and being able to see that is just awesome.

I would also like to thank the various public officials for the chance to cover and - in many cases - have a say in the direction things should go. The things I have learned from those experiences alone have been worth so much.

Finally, I would like to thank the readers - the ones who liked what I had to say, didn't like what I had to say and were kind of enough to speak up when they believed there was something to be said - for showing me what community journalism means.

It's one thing to write a story, which I enjoyed, but to be able to invest in the community emotionally and to see the feelings of those stories and be involved with conveying them on the pages is something special for me.

I can safely say that I will always believe one of the things that makes a great story is believing in the people you are writing about and believing in what they have to say.

While I am currently unsure of what my future holds, I would like to compare my situation to that of the village itself (if only loosely): We know the future holds something great for us - even if we aren't sure what it is yet - and we can't wait to get there.

Thank you for allowing me to be part of such a wonderful process, Mahomet. And remember, whether you can see what the future holds or not, always enjoy the view.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Living a Dream Still Requires a lot of Work - 1-20-10 Editor's Column

This week we celebrated the birthday of one of the most influential individuals in our nation’s history.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has been revered by many since his passing and also remembered, specifically for the dream he shared with so many who were willing to listen as he stood at the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28, 1963.

As the years have gone by, we have struggled to realize that dream, though we continually make strides towards what many might call a Utopian society.

Often times, I am awestruck by how far we have come in our acceptance and understanding of one another, whether we are black, white, or otherwise.

Other times, I stand baffled by the selfishness and hate that we try to ignore but can’t quite get away from.

However, as I find myself standing in this in-between place with a view of the good and the bad, I can’t help but feel like we have accomplished - at least in part - what Dr. King was persecuted and murdered for so many years ago.

Our schools accept individuals of all colors and teach the value of equality and the harm of intolerance.

Our businesses treat customers like family, no matter what their backgrounds or lineages might be.

While we still battle with those who would try to disrupt our progress, more often than not they are made examples of and allow others trying to follow in their footsteps to see the folly of their ways.

We are in the middle of Dr. King’s dream.

But we still have a lot of work to do.

Racism does not simply go away with a few words and a sweep of a broom under the rug. Nor does intolerance.

In order to progress we must not let ourselves be caught up in fear, but be led by the need for understanding.

A need to understand our own history and why change was implemented and needed in the first place.

A need to understand the emotions of those around us and ask why they exist instead of chiding their existence.

But most importantly, a need for continued patience as we make baby steps in the right direction.

Dr. King had a dream that he hoped one day would come true. Dreams have a tendency of becoming reality when enough people strive to see them realized.

That said, as you do your own part in realizing Dr. King’s dream, no matter how small or big, be sure to step back, look at your progress and enjoy the view.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Advance Release: 1-13-10 Editor's Column: Parents and Video games: A Better Combination Than We Know

Like many people throughout the country and the world, I enjoy spending some time playing video games on my Xbox 360 while chatting with my friends and decimating enemy teams.

However, as I find myself still relatively new to the online gaming arena, I've discovered an increasingly bothersome fact about gaming: There are too many underage players.

Currently, I'm playing the game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (MW2), which is a first-person shooter that utilizes tactical gameplay and teamwork during the multiplayer matches and requires a great deal of concentration for the more difficult settings of the single-player campaign.

The game itself is rated M for Mature, meaning individuals who are under the age of 17 may not purchase this video game. In the same regard, the rating is in place as a recommendation to parents that they should not purchase it for their children if they are not at or at least close to the stated age requirement.

Yet, time and time again I find myself playing an online match with other players my age and then chimes in a voice of someone no older than 10, using words I would never in my life picture a 10-year-old using and making an obvious attempt to instigate confrontations with other players.

On the Xbox Live web forum for MW2 I read a topic requesting input on what players felt the appropriate age range for this game is, stating his position as a parent who allows his eight-year-old - yes, you read that right, eight (8)-year-old child - to play this game.

Eight. Playing a game in which the primary objective is to eliminate the enemy using weapons such as shotguns, machine guns, tactical knives, grenades and even a nuclear weapon if you can attain it.

To say that I was a little disgusted is an understatement. In fact, provided the original poster with my own perspective on the matter, especially since this argument has implications that reach farther than just to a few individual television sets.

I learned from my parents that it was their job (and will be my job when my wife and I have a child) to provide a solid base of core values and understanding of sensitive subjects. This way, as we grow older, we have the opportunity to form our own opinions from a solid frame of reference.

In the case of allowing small children to play war-based games, parents are allowing their children to learn from something that cannot point out differences, explain historical situations, cite actions and consequences and dispel the misconception that you can do what you see in video games.

Contrary to what I've read and heard some parents say about their children, they are not mature enough to handle the concept of war and all it entails at the age of eight. No matter how mature you think your child is, you have to remember and consider the fact that he or she is exactly that: A child.

I remember a few years back, video games were put under a microscope because of children who were allowed to play violent video games and then practiced what they saw in the game on friends.

In those instances, the parents blamed the video games they had purchased for their children instead of placing the blame where it rightfully should have been placed: On themselves.

Now, don't get me wrong, I don't believe everyone matures automatically at the age of 17, nor do I believe everyone below the age of 17 is absolutely immature. There are always going to be people who are old enough but not mature enough and vice versa. The point is, taking the time to recognize it as a parent while it is still up to the parents should be important.

I know my parents didn't allow me to play any mature-rated video games until I was around 15 years old. Though I wasn't 17, I had reached a point where my parents could trust my opinions on things like war and violence enough to allow me to play such games.

While this is likely nothing more than wishful thinking, I believe it would be more beneficial for not only the people who are old enough to enjoy these games as well as the children who have been prematurely allowed to play them, to reevaluate whether or not certain games really are acceptable for our children.

With a rating on the box stating no one under the age of 17 should purchase this game (I still get carded for games), perhaps we should stick closer to this rather than seeing the popularity of a game and buying it blindly.

Our kids will thank us for it in the long run. Take my word for it.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Another Year of Opportunities Awaits Mahomet - January Mahomet Citizen Editorial

Every new year, the same old song and dance includes naming off a list of changes most people will give one or two attempts to achieve before giving up.

The tradition of ending resolutions early is nearly as well-known as the tradition of making them in the first place, often times giving little meaning to the oft-uttered new diet/workout plan people rave about in the first week and curse the next.

However, given the amount of resolve within the community of Mahomet, there should be no reason why resolutions shouldn’t only succeed, but encompass the core values of the community at the same time.

Everywhere one turns, there are individuals within Mahomet’s borders with ideas that could very easily energize the community in new ways.

One such idea from 2009 that found its way into fruition is the community tennis organization. Though it is geared towards children, the fact of the matter is it was started after a few individuals determined Mahomet lacked tennis, so they got together and made a plan on who to bring it to the area.

So why can’t other residents try something similar? For a community said to be growing, there should be no shortage of ideas coming from the residents who live here about ways to (within reason) improve or enhance the atmosphere and appeal of Mahomet.

Obviously certain things will require more time and consideration than others, and some things will simply be unattainable... at first.

However, with the right lines of communication with village and township governments, organizational leaders, community business leaders and other community leaders, the only thing standing in the way of development and growth should be money and red tape.

Once that point is reached, if the idea is solvent enough to be taken further, the money issue can be examined in kind and once that is resolved, the red tape can be addressed.

Dan Waldinger of the Mahomet parks and recreation department said it best in an article last month, that Mahomet isn’t huge, but it’s not small anymore either.

The question now becomes, with the new year upon them, how will village residents and leaders move Mahomet forward?