The other weekend, I came home from the grocery store, expecting the two boys in the family I live with to be tired from an early morning soccer game. But instead of sitting on the couch, they were loading up their parent’s car with rakes, trash bags, gloves and other equipment.
“Lauren, we’re going to go clean the playground at my elementary school. Do you want to come?” The oldest, Jonah, asked.
I smiled politely, replying with an absolute “Yes.” I thought it would be a fun, Saturday adventure; and it was. It wasn’t until I learned the reason behind our expedition, however that I became captured by Jonah’s excitement. At first, I thought the boys were just being cute. Then I learned that Jonah had spearheaded the whole clean-up activity, after being inspired by a book his elementary school teacher gave him.
The book, a narrative on citizenship, prompted Jonah to think about his own role in the Muncie community. With joy in his eyes, he told his mom he wanted to be a good citizen and take care of his community — and what better way to do that than to call on community members to clean up the local school playground?
So that’s what we and around 20 others did that Saturday afternoon. A little more than an hour, eight trash bags and hundreds of pulled weeds later and the playground looked immaculate. Not only was the clean-up beneficial to the school, but I ended up getting to know a lot of neighbors on a more personal level. All because someone 1/4 of our age saw a need in the community and wanted to be a “good citizen.”
I think Jonah critically understands something that we as adults tend to forget: that we need each other to help make a positive difference in the world around us.
A community can only be as great as its citizens. And if citizens do not invest in, care for and help their community to the best of their ability, the community will never be as rich as it could. Not rich in terms of money, but rich in terms of love and respect.
It’s easy to complain about the things we don’t like in the world around us. But at the end of the day, it’s doing something to enrich our communities that make the world a better, more loving and joyful place.