This I Believe

Lesle - Paola, Kansas
Entered on January 12, 2008
Age Group: 50 - 65

The headline seemed destined for Jay Leno’s list of quirky news bits from around the country: “McPherson mayor says residents prefer to pick up their own limbs.”

Published on the front page of (January 6, 2008) The Hutchinson News, the story compared McPherson’s city policy regarding the clean up after the late December ice storms to that of Hutchinson’s. The brief article inadvertently laid the case for individual civic duty.

With the incentive of waived fees for trash dumping at the city’s landfills, McPherson’s contractors and residents had industriously groomed their Kansas town.

I agree with the McPherson mayor. Citizens should do their part to restore order after a storm.

I just happened to be in Hutchinson to help my family and my 83-year-old mother prepare to sell the house she called home for many years and to move to a safer and more comfortable senior community. The men of the family stacked 5-foot high piles of brush in front of her home from fallen limbs from her old trees. The city says the community must be patient. It will take until late spring or even summer to haul the limbs away.

It was ironic that while reminiscing and sorting through Mom’s belongings, we found a Kansas township record from the late 19th century in which our great-uncle was reimbursed a few dollars for the use of his team and his labor to grade his country roads.

“Oh, everyone did their part,” Mom said. “Back then, everyone took care of their neighbors. Your grandpa dug graves. He graded the road.”

Today, it seems, most people would rather maneuver around piles of refuse then to take care of their neighbors and their problems themselves: Someone else should do it. It’s the government’s job.

My husband is old school. He is the first one on his tractor to help clear our country road after a snowstorm and always helps our neighbors, without hesitation.

The headline in that Sunday morning paper may have been funny, but the reality of our civic laziness shouldn’t make us smile. We think we understand stewardship, but stewardship of our community should require more than just paying a tax bill and then complaining about the inadequacy of city services.

If God has blessed us with homes and streets, then I believe it’s our job, if we are physically able, to return our communities to order when nature wreaks havoc with ice, snow, tornadoes, floods, and hurricanes. If we are alive and kicking, then it’s more than a duty to get to work. It’s a privilege.