If confession is good for the soul, I have one to share with you to keep my soul on the up and up.

I am a Facebook voyeur. 

margaretThat is a term I recently learned, referencing people who enjoy reading others’ posts but who rarely, if ever, post anything themselves. All I ever do on Facebook is wish a friend “Happy Birthday,” and I do that sporadically. I am not interested in sponsored posts or pictures of other people’s lunches, but I do enjoy seeing what my friends are up to and what is being said on issues of the day.

Earlier this month, I came across a post by a blogger, Samantha Metheny, who came to our Fayetteville/Cumberland County community with what sounds like trepidation. She worried that there would not be enough to do — that she and her family would have to drive to find culture and entertainment as we say in the South, “up the road.”

Now resident Samantha has changed her tune.

On Facebook, she addresses others who are coming to our community and offers a list of community highlights and notes, “There are tons of things that could be added, but this is a great starting point.” She features community institutions, among them the Cape Fear Regional Theater, the Cape Fear River Trail, the downtown Farmers Market, the Field of Honor, the Cape Fear Botanical Garden and Fascinate-U Children’s Museum. She is also complimentary of community festivals — Dogwood, Blues and Brews, International Folk, When Pigs Fly, as well as various commercial enterprises offering produce picking, ice cream licking, wine tasting and outdoor adventures.

A quick Google turns up other offerings from the Convention and Visitors Bureau, Trip Advisor and several organizations and individuals. 

Margaret to Samantha. Thank you.

I celebrate all of this and have enjoyed quite a bit of it myself, including zip lining. Shocking, even to me, although the berries and wine are right up my alley. I also love the fact that our community offers every ethnic and national cuisine most of us can think of, even if some of those restaurants lack ambiance beyond bare countertops and florescent lighting.

That being said, there is room for improvement. 

I am not alone in wanting civic and political leadership that is more diverse and more willing to take reasonable risks for long-term gain. 

One way to encourage this goal may be for younger citizens to step forward and run for public office. By young, I mean the 30 – and 40-somethings whose ideas and energy levels are certainly different than those of us who have been around for a bit longer than that. I see reluctance of younger folks to engage in leadership and/or governing in many aspects of our community life — in nonprofit organizations, in faith institutions and certainly in elective office. 

Many younger folks have told me that their careers are demanding and time consuming, that their children are involved in sports teams requiring parental time and travel and that, frankly, their families come first.

I understand all of that. Our family of five had two working parents and three active children, and there is no question that both work and family life can be challenging. Together they can be overwhelming, and our first responsibilities are always to those whom we love. 

There is also an “ick” factor attached to elective politics, more so in presidential election years and especially in this ugly and divisive cycle. Many people have an instinctive negative reaction to the thought of jumping into the political process, memorably expressed to me by one of my friends who, when I told her I planned to file for public office, exclaimed, “Eew! Why do you want to be with ‘those people?’”

The reality is that there will never be a perfect time or avenue for anyone to step into a leadership role, whether in an organization or in political office. Life is messy and complicated, and it is always easier to let someone else shoulder the responsibility. It is always easier to tell ourselves we will do that “when the children are older” or “when life slows down.”

The danger — and I see this far more often than is comfortable in our community — is that when capable, creative and courageous people do not offer themselves for public service in some way, we all suffer. Decisions that affect all of us are going to be made one way or another, and our community is going to be better off if decisions about schools, spending and public policies of all sorts are made by people from all walks of life, of all ages and with varied skills and life experiences.

The hard truth is that in community life — like all other aspects of life — we get out of it what we put into it.

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