The Eastern Panhandle is an interesting area. It is considered by some to be an extension of the DC suburbs. As people from different backgrounds move here from larger and diverse cities, longtime residents may begin to worry about possible changes in the community. Nostalgia for “the way things used to be” is often stronger than optimism about growth and change. Whether you pine for days past or want to carve out a brighter future, taking an active role in your community is good for you and your neighbors. Here are seven reasons community participation is important for everyone.

You are a member of the community

Whether you like it or not, you are already part of something bigger than you. Your home, the schools your children attend, the stores in which you shop, the roads you use are all part of your community. The decisions you make and the way in which you choose to interact with those around you are important.

We are all connected

It’s easy to forget that we are all connected. The trash that we throw out our car window, the medications that we flush down the drain, and the buildings that we allow to crumble are part of our shared environment. Pollution of our land and water system affect us now and has an impact on our future. Long term sustainability of our hometown is impacted by the choices that we make as individuals and as a community.

It’s who you know

I’ve been a friend, classmate, drinking buddy, case manager, social worker and therapist. Recently, I’ve been “that guy writing for Miburg.” I have lived in many places, and I may have even been your neighbor at some point.

The personal connections that we make are vital to our growth and success within the community. When I purchased my first home, I mainly dealt with my real estate. I was surprised when she mentioned that the seller knew me. When we went to closing, I realized that I had met the seller when I covered the Gateway Children’s Garden a few months prior. He remembered our positive interaction, which was a consideration during the selling process. He worked with my agent to answer any questions and resolve any issues that I had before we went to closing, making the whole process a little less stressful.

Your actions are just as important as your connections

The seller and I had a positive experience when we first met. This worked in both of our favors when he sold the property. I have both good and bad days just like everyone. When I’m having a bad day, I make an effort to not take it out on those around me. When we project our negativity out into the community, it can come back to haunt you. Why burn bridges instead of helping to build them?

You are never alone

Some of us in the community do not have the privilege of living close to family and our loved ones. Some of us have strained relationships or have completely walked away from their family due to circumstances like abuse or neglect.

Communities are full of groups, organizations and churches who readily accept those looking for a place to belong. Although the transition from strangers to friends is a common one, it can be difficult to see our neighbors as part of the community when we view everyone as a stranger or “outsider.” Being part of the community means making and maintaining those connections.

Create your own space

Connecting with different groups and organizations can help us all to support one another and grow. If your interest or need isn’t represented, maybe you can be the one to create it. You, after all, contribute to the community, and your ideas and passions are important to its health, growth and sustainability.

It takes a village

Humans are social creatures, living in groups and working together to take care of one another. Our parents and guardians watch over and care for us as we grow. The tables turn later in life, and we look to the younger generation to care for us in our final years. West Virginians are known for their pride and self-sufficiency as well as their strength in community. Consider investing in yourself, your neighbors and the greater community by taking a more active role. Be part of the village.

Check out our events calendar for different opportunities in the area. I look forward to meeting you!

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