Many people want the complete community experience where they live. Safety. Recreation. Education. Art. Eating. Entertainment. Opportunity.
Author Richard Florida contends in his book, "Who's Your City?" that where we choose to live is as important a decision as who we choose to spend our life with and what we choose to do for a living.
While I have friends all across our fruited plain, for this example I will focus on Lee's Summit.
Why do we live here? Are we happy here? If not, what are we doing to improve our community?
Some join a social club. Others give back through service. Our greatest gifts are likely as simple as our gift of time. We know that talk is cheap. Actions show our resolve to help, assist and give back. If it's at a thrift store, an elementary school or a nonprofit organization, we make a difference simply by showing up.
In Lee's Summit, it really is just that easy.
A small, and sometimes vocal, minority like to bat around terms like "insiders" and similar phrases to describe those that are involved around town. Like any community, Lee's Summit isn't immune to the "most of the work falls on just a few" routine. But it doesn't have to be like that. It is easy to be involved in Lee's Summit. Making a difference is as effortless as picking up trash, reading to a kid or volunteering on a committee. Some of the strongest leaders in Lee's Summit do it very quietly.
I will use the example of a young man named Mike Ekey who, after a little persistence, was appointed to the Lee's Summit Arts Council and later the Planning Commission. Mike has been in town just a few years.
From our parks to our downtown, HOA's to private schools, it takes an abundance of volunteerism and that gift of time to keep things moving. I know there are countless parents out there putting in that time when they barely have it.
Others, though, don't bring anything to the table other than blustering and complaining. And social media has helped feed that ability to gripe unfettered and offer no real solutions.
When you listen to this loud minority, you would think Lee's Summit is on the verge of falling to pieces. But we need to remind them that they chose Lee's Summit. And if things aren't great, what are they doing to make it better?
Florida sums it up nicely here:
"Finding the right place is as important as—if not more important than— finding the right job or partner because it not only influences those choices but also determines how easy or hard it will be to correct mistakes made along the way. Still, few of us actually look at a place that way. Perhaps it’s because so few of us have the understanding or mental framework necessary to make informed choices about our location."
So, that's the challenge. Finding your place means you've taken everything into consideration. Happiness isn't about where you live, but you do live somewhere that should make you happy. If it doesn't, change it.
Another great nugget from Florida:
"The place we choose to live affects every aspect of our being. It can determine the income we earn, the people we meet, the friends we make, the partners we choose, and the options available to our children and families. People are not equally happy everywhere, and some places do a better job of providing a high quality of life than others. Some places offer us more vibrant labor markets, better career prospects, higher real estate appreciation, and stronger investment and earnings opportunities. Some places offer more promising mating markets. Others are better environments for raising children."
Can you read that paragraph and not think of Lee's Summit? I can't.
Now, go make a difference. We're a better city and a stronger community when you do.