Feb. 3, 2012: Exploring the idea of community in our community, by Denise de Rochefort-Reynolds

February 3, 2012 by

For the third year, the Frank Carlson Library is partnering with the Concordia Year of Peace Committee to create opportunities for citizens to discuss important topics in a relaxed environment. It seemed a natural fit this year when the library learned that “Our Boys: A Perfect Season on the Plains with the Smith Center Redmen” was chosen for the Kansas One Book/One State reading and discussion project.  On the surface this book, written by Joe Drape, is a football story. The main characters are the revered, seasoned coach and an assortment of high school football players whose talent and determination on and off the field inspire the reader.

But there is a second story in this book. It is the story of a rural community, a community dedicated to growing something more important than wheat or cattle. What the community of Smith Center produces each year is a group of students who have been instilled with the basic values of hard work, love, patience and humility. When you read this book, you may ask yourself questions about our own community:

How does our community build the character of its young people?

What values are our teachers, coaches, parents and other community leaders instilling in our children?

Do our children internalize these values and carry them with them into adult life?

Some issues that many communities face are not addressed in “Our Boys.” The problems of gangs and bullying, the challenges of coping with mental or physical handicaps, the limitations of severe poverty, homelessness and domestic violence; these topics are outside the scope of the book. Yet many communities struggle to find solutions for these problems in ways that unite people in an effort to improve the quality of life for all. How does our community address these problems? Are the solutions beneficial to all concerned?  Are they the best that we can envision and afford?

What makes a good community? For that matter, what is a community, anyway? Is it defined by geography?

Certainly we would all agree that the town where you live, or even your neighborhood, is your community. But community can refer to something both bigger and smaller. It can be a group sharing a common culture, a group of people in a workplace, a group united by faith (such as a church’s congregation), or united by purpose (such as a service organization). In most cases, the idea of community is based on shared values, resources and sense of identity.

How do we identify our community? What resources, needs and solutions do we share? Is it important to agree on everything, on most things, on anything? How does our community react to diversity of opinion? Do we welcome outsiders into our community or do we shun them? Do we believe that even big city reporters like Joe Drape, author of “Our Boys,” have something to contribute to our community?

These are all questions worth thinking about, and worth talking about as a community. If you have ideas about how we can do that — as a community — please let me, or a member of the Concordia Year of Peace Committee, know.

I hope that we allow all who are part of our community an opportunity to make a difference.  We will all benefit.

 

— Denise de Rochefort-Reynolds is the director of the Frank Carlson Library.  She and her husband Karl have lived in Concordia for more than 25 years.

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