Resolutions for the benefit of all
As we begin the New Year, let us — as Vermonters and residents of Addison County — resolve to:
• Redouble our individual efforts to give back to our state and communities, not in some vague notion of being a responsible citizen, but through specific actions to improve the lives of our neighbors or the betterment of the larger community.
To do that, you’ll need to identify a cause to support or action to accomplish. Perhaps this is the year you’ll volunteer for the United Way’s Day of Caring and commit a day’s labor to help a local service agency. Or perhaps you’ll commit to walking dogs once a week at the Humane Society; or become a regular donor to the Addison County Food Shelf; or lend your expertise to establish or expand a community garden in your community; or be a mentor to a young student at your school or a volunteer reader; or be a volunteer that works with elderly in need; or commit to keeping a stretch of road near your home litter free; or volunteer for one of the many civic boards in your community; or, if you don’t have the time, contribute needed funds to organizations like the John Graham Shelter, Hospice or dozens more like them that struggle for adequate funding each year.
Dozens, if not hundreds, of opportunities await those citizens who seek ways to help. Don’t be shy. Ask a selectboard member, or your town clerk, or a local pastor, or the United Way office — to name a few resources — how you can best help others. Or just look around your community and pick an event or activity or cause that you feel passionate about and get involved in that.
If each of us did just one thing, our communities would be immeasurably stronger for it.
• As parents, grandparents and interested citizens, let’s resolve to put an added emphasis on education. This is an area in our lives that local governments operate while many sources fund it, but where most of the motivation and disciple should come from the home. What we know in this era of global economies and the increasing loss of middle-class jobs in this country is that today’s students must have a solid academic foundation on which to base a lifetime of learning.
For parents that means starting children early with pre-school classes, reading at home, and little (if any) time in front of the television or video games. It means working with them in their schooling and instilling the discipline to get homework done on time and done well, as well as an understanding that good grades in school and going on to higher education is absolutely essential to having good jobs as adults.
As interested citizens, we all must understand that if we are to maintain our place in the top tier of countries in the world, we must invest in the education of our youth. What’s in it for those of us who no longer have kids in school? Lots. Without the success of the younger generations and the income taxes they pay, the nation will no longer be able to afford the network of retirement, Social Security and health care systems that keep the majority of retired Americans from becoming impoverished. To a great extent, the more we invest in our educational system — at all levels — the more secure the nation’s future will be.
• Similarly, at the local level, citizens can promote town and statewide investments that promote economic development and job creation. Vermont, and Addison County, have compelling stories to tell that give us an edge on other states — if we can effectively tell those stories and put the effort into recruiting the jobs of tomorrow. That takes investment in time, labor and money — but without it, a dwindling or stagnant economy is the likely result.
• Finally, we can each make a big difference to our national prosperity by taking better care of our health. As a nation we spend enormous amounts of money on self-inflicted ailments caused by over-eating and a poor diet combined with a lack of exercise. In a word, too many Americans have become fat and lazy — and it is enormously expensive in terms of health care costs. Like education, this is a matter of individual responsibility and it must start in the home.
If it’s a problem in your household, start today by tossing the Twinkies and other sweets; go for a walk; join a fitness center; touch your toes; do a few pushups; go for a ski. Whatever you do watch less TV, spend less time at the computer at home, and do more actual things to help your community. If you will, you’ll not only get in shape faster, you’ll feel better and be happier for it.
Cheers to all to a prosperous New Year.