The Hometown Spirit

“In every community there is work to be done. In every nation, there are wounds to heal. In every heart, there is the power to do it.” -Marianne Williamson

Did you know, that the hometown spirit still is alive and well? This weekend, I was fortunate enough to participate in the holiday celebrations of 2 local small towns. In both towns, I was awestruck with the amount of spirit and pride that was demonstrated by area citizens. One of the towns held a community event that included a parade with floats designed and created by individual families as well as organizational groups of people. This event also included free horse-drawn carriage rides around the center square of the town, craft and food vendors and the much-anticipated arrival of Santa Clause. Excitement filled the cool evening air as the community celebrated the homecoming of its citizens. This celebration has been an area tradition for many years and it is just one of many held there each year. The other town also has deep-rooted bonds within the community but like many small rural towns, it has experienced ‘a changing of the guards’ for leadership of community events. Volunteers who previously organized events within the community are no longer able to do so and younger leaders have emerged. This is only the second year for this particular holiday celebration in this town. With this being said, citizens of this community once again banded together and demonstrated their support. A committee of volunteers worked on organizing the event for several months before it was held. Craft and food vendors set up around town and area businesses pitched in with complimentary food items, door prizes and all-around support. Santa Clause also made an appearance in this town and helped to set the mood for the upcoming Christmas holiday. I have no doubt that this celebration will continue for years to come.

You might be asking yourself, “Why is this important?” “Why should I care about two small towns in central Illinois? ” We are living in a time where a feeling of community (and belonging) is disappearing. Our lives are becoming more and more hectic and people are losing contact with each other. Sure, the internet and cell phones help us to stay connected on one level. But real face-to-face contact, support and interaction is slowly being lost. Many communities are self-destructing or are being destroyed by outsiders. Neighbors are frequently afraid to reach out to each other while others are too busy to become acquainted. Small towns are dying and younger citizens are relocating to larger cities. The spirit of community is being lost. These two small towns are living proof that this change is not inevitable.

The community spirit that built this country is still alive in America but it takes people working together to ensure that it doesn’t die. Did you know that you can help? Regardless of the size of the community in which you reside, one person can make a difference. All it takes is one person to reach out to another. Get to know your neighbors. Greet people that you meet on the street. Turn off your television set (or ignore your cell phone) and spend a little time visiting with your neighbors. Bake extra and share. Create a community garden together and donate the produce to your local food bank. Get the children involved. Help to set an example for the next generation(s) of neighbors. Pick up litter and help to plant bushes and plants that will draw in pollinators. Organize or participate in a special event every month of the year (not just in December!) Farmers’ markets are great way to bring people together during the growing season and when combined with entertainment groups made up of local community members, they can’t be beat. Volunteer with a local charity such as Meals on Wheels and deliver meals to shut ins. Escort a group of senior citizens to a holiday event. The possible ways to get involved are truly endless…

Here’s wishing you and yours a holiday season and new year filled with community spirit, friends and family. Celebrate the simple pleasures of life.

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