Skim through the Northern New York blogs, and you’re likely to conclude most NNY residents are bitter complainers -- resentlful of powers beyond their control and eager for someone to sue.
It seems the younger folks have video games to let off steam; and the older folks have blogs.
The blog complainers find catharsis in finger-pointing. And yet their blame often proves to be misguided. Misguided in that they rarely see how some blame might fall in their own lap:
• People complain the mom and pop stores in their small town are dying out, yet they shop regularly at Wal-Mart;
• People complain that young people are looking out of state for jobs, yet they’ll fight tooth and nail to stop any big business development in their community;
• And people complain there’s no sense of community in their community…while they spend all day blogging on their computer.
Also, they rarely see how they can play a role in making a change for the better:
• People hate all Democrats, yet they’ve never actively campaigned for a Republican candidate;
• People hate how they feel disenfranchised from their NNY community, yet they refuse to sell the Arizona condo they live in for 10 months every year;
• And they will viciously condemn their local government officials in letters in the local newspaper, yet not once in their life will they ever attempt to talk directly with a local government official, nor will they attempt to run for a local government position.
When I was enrolled in one of our fine NNY high schools, my 8th grade English teacher gave me sage advice that I carry with me to this day. Giving me a D on my argument essay, Mr. S said, “There are two kinds of people in this world: the kind that walk into a room and say, ‘Here I am!’ and the kind that walk into a room and say, ‘There you are!’
“The person that says, “Here I am!” is more interested in ranting that resolution; he is more interested in finger-pointing and shaming others. If he sees he’s at odds with majority opinion in the community, his only response is bitterness. Rather than trying to understand the majority opinion, he’ll instead choose to spread his bitterness, hoping to make others as bitter as he is. He’d rather be a ringleader of resentment than an agent of constructive change, betterment in his community.
“The person that says, ‘There you are!’ recognizes he is just one member of a community. Understanding the rationale behind majority opinion is important. If he sees a problem in his community, his response is active listening and active communication, with consideration for the diverse members of his community. To be a ‘There you are!’ person will increase your chances of influencing others, making positive change desirable to others, and ultimately bettering your community. In the very least, you’ll avoid a life of disconnection and bitterness.”
Mr. S pointed at the D on my argument paper, and said, “You wrote this paper as if you were the only person in the room. You need to write this believing you're speaking to an audience. And you’re not on a podium talking AT your audience; you’re sitting in a circle sharing WITH your audience.”
Fortunately, Mr. S allowed me to revise my paper. I took his advice and I got an A- (my grammar wasn’t quite up to par).
For a New Year’s resolution in Northern New York, let’s try to be people who walk into a room (or comment on a blog) and say, “There you are!” Let’s not idly complain. Whenever pointing out a problem in our community, try to offer a reasonable solution – a solution that most community members might want to help you accomplish.