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Sue's Views: Make it your job to build strong community

My sister-in-law can't stand to hear someone fold paper. She cringes and covers her ears. It's worse than fingernails on a chalkboard for her.

My son has the same reaction when I sing along with my MP3 player. Just from the look on his face, I know that he doesn't find my rendition of a certain song soothing or enjoyable.

For me, the sound that is most irritating is the phrase, "It's not my job."

I hear it on a daily basis at home as I try to motivate my children to complete their chores. "It's not my job to empty the dishwasher!" Of course, I reply that their job is to do whatever their parents tell them to do. As you might expect, the children don't necessarily find this inspiring. Often, I have to resort to providing motivation with this line, "Do it or you lose computer privileges/cell phone use/television or anything else I pay for." Motivation is all about finding what's in it for me.

I was in a meeting recently when the question of "Is it my job to fix everything?" was raised.

Well, of course, the short answer is no. No one in Morris is charged specifically with saving the whales or freeing Tibet or stabilizing the markets.

But we sometimes forget that citizenship is a job, too.

It is a citizen's job to participate in your community. If every citizen would be encouraged to really participate in the everyday workings of their town, the community will be successful.

However, I want to be careful to not oversimplify this. You can't just show up at one city council meeting and expect that will solve everything.

No, just another meeting isn't what I'm suggesting. Truly, if meetings were the answer, we'd have everything fixed by now. There are plenty of groups and meetings nearly every waking hour to discuss nearly everything under the sun, including the previous meeting and how hard it is to get anything done between meetings.

What I'm saying is that we all need to find what we can contribute and then do it.

When community members are head-down and siloed in their own employment, neighborhood or organization, our community is really nothing more than a geographic location. Life becomes routine and the community is background noise.

But when we act like we enjoy living here, are proud of our fair hamlet and interested in what others are doing to improve it, it shows.

Currently, there's a group of folks trying to do just that.

Stevens FORWARD! has a mission to work together to build a future for the community. Their destiny statement is as follows: "Stevens County will be the model community in rural Minnesota, recognized for our progressive development and our innovations in renewable energy, agriculture, business, and education. We will achieve this by building upon the intellectual and social capital already present within the county, and by attracting new and diverse talent that will drive our economy and increase our population."

There are a handful of people who have taken the time, made the effort, attended meetings, put thought and effort into this initiative and are making it their job to improve our community.

But they need help. They need each of us to take on the job of being a citizen, to recognize that building and sustaining a community is not a spectator sport.

Visit the Stevens FORWARD! Web site,, and review the 14 destiny drivers listed. Find one that you can help with, then jump in with both feet. Find out how much more exciting it is to say, "I can do that!" instead of "That's not my job."