Ch ch ch changes...

Change is all around us: spring colors change gray to pink and orange and white and green; gasoline prices seem to change for the worst every day; we’ve even seen a dynamic change in VCU basketball and a changing local business climate as established concerns leave and new businesses fill in the gap.

As a kid, it wasn’t March 21, budding bushes, March Madness or daylight-saving time that ushered in spring in my house – it was spring cleaning. When I saw my mother cleaning closets and enlisting me to carry boxes of old clothes out for Goodwill and lugging winter coats to storage, I knew that it was time to anticipate summer vacation and late evenings of playing outside.

Ah, the changing seasons. British poet Anne Bradstreet wrote, “If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.”

Interestingly, how many times these days do we see adversity change to prosperity, especially community prosperity? It’s so much more difficult nowadays, isn’t it? Investing in a business that was a dream propagated over a lifetime can be snuffed out overnight by a big-box corporate concern. That’s why in today’s economic climate it is imperative that we support our local stores, restaurants and gift shops, as well as, professionals such as doctors (not in a box), bookkeepers, tax preparers and even drug stores. The bigger the corporation, the less likely they will get involved with the community and have a part in maintaining a sense of place within it.

Do you think Walmart would care about landscaping its road frontage if the county hadn’t forced them? How much does Comcast contribute to hyper-local community landscape?

While we are working toward each of our communities (Chester, Courthouse, Centralia, Bensley, Ettrick, Enon) to maintain a unique character, it’s also the people who create a sense of place. The garden clubs, woman’s clubs, community and homeowner associations, churches, PTSAs and other civically-responsible groups that help push a community forward, hold a community together, help promote its public spaces, get involved in its planning and represent it when those who should, don’t.

This promotion of a sense of place only works with participation, but civic groups are graying, preachers are ministering to a white-headed congregation and working stiffs are too worn out at the end of the day to participate in anything other than a bottle of beer or a glass of wine and their favorite TV show. But you can’t effect change or make sure your home place is viable from the front of a 52-inch digital 1080 pixel flat screen machine.

What’s at stake is our community. If a younger generation doesn’t step up to the plate, take the reins and grab the wheel, we will lose direction. We can’t depend on a graying government to think progressively, to understand what’s needed for those who now attend elementary and middle schools. It has to be our children or our children’s children who begin walking the road to the future.

The world is changing so rapidly that we Boomers need the help of those who grasp how to communicate, how to gather the energy, follow the trends and imagine their own future. The time of change has come, and it makes sense for Generation Xers and the Echo Boomers to learn the process, create new community processes, move in and take charge to make things better for all of us. After all, typically they are better educated than their parents, more technically astute, and most have lived in more urban settings and can appreciate what is required as our county’s population surpasses that of any jurisdiction in a region becoming more urban every day.

It’s time for a change, a transition to younger modes of thought and younger strategies. We’re in the draft stage of a county-wide comprehensive plan here in Chesterfield just as county schools begin their strategic plan. Most of those providing input have the same brilliant hair color as that of civic groups and church congregations. The Boomers will not be the ones to live with the decisions made for our future today. As public plans go, they take years to attain the initial concept. What we decide today is what they deal with tomorrow.

This may be a call to generations who will not be reading this. Is it a useless endeavor to attempt to recruit those under 50 to community activism? Am I one man screaming in the dark? Those gray-headed committee members, civic leaders and elected officials are like air traffic controllers asleep in the tower. They can’t hear the shouts of those traveling at altitudes higher than their own.

It’s time for a change. It may have to be gradual but change must start now. Maybe it’s only Quixote’s windmills that I fight, but I feel that I need to make the call – a call for participation, involvement and change.  


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