When I came to Warren a year ago, I looked at our community and the hurdles before it with what I now realize was youthful naivette. Of course, I didn't think I was being naive-after all, Warren is where I grew up, so I thought I understood the issues that needed addressed.
One year later, the youthfully naive part of me has died-and has been replaced with what I hope is a wiser, more mature appreciation for what plagues our community and the efforts being made to help us take needed steps forward. What I'm trying to say is that writing these columns over the last year has changed me-made me wiser, more appreciative, and more passionate about our community than I thought possible.
As I leave my tenure as a community columnist, I hope that I have been able to help you feel similarly. I hope you have been aided in cultivating gratitude for our region, and seeing a real, living hope for our future.
Now, at the end of my time with you, I've decided to leave you with a warning and an encouragement.
First, the warning: pay close attention to yourself, that you don't become apathetic about our community, especially those people nearest you. I once was told that the opposite of love isn't hate, but apathy; indifference is what ultimately lets communities decline. Watch yourself for indifference, disinterest, and impassivity. When you feel this way about our community as a whole, but especially your neighbors, friends, and schools-you are simply allying yourself with our community's decline.
Choose instead to be bold, not bored; passionate not passive. Volunteer, show up, do something-anything that would make our community a better place. This isn't a call to be nice, but compassionate, to really care about what hurts us and to do something significant to stop it. And, if you can't drum up the emotion to care, just do something anyway; as my mother taught me, just fake it 'till you make it.
Second, the encouragement. In people-helping fields like mine, we talk a lot about burnout and compassion fatigue. It's what happens when you find yourself caring so much, so often, that you just can't care anymore. You work hard to bring change to areas which others don't really care about, and before you know it, you're "running on fumes." To those of you who courageously work to make our community a better place-through ministry, social work, non-profits, and other means-be sure to take care of yourself.
In my short time here in Warren, I've discovered just how hard it is to have a fighting spirit for our community, which is exactly what we need: people who refuse to give up until the work is really done. To those of you fighting hard-and you probably know who you are-thank you for what you do.
I'll end this column as I began last year: hope is real. It's something that we can experience in our region, in our community, but it is only found by those who seek it. Let's be a community of hope-one that works hard to make this place better for everyone.
Tennant is a resident of Warren. Readers can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org