Loose Ends: What were they thinking?

Dolly Viscardi
A Herald Times reader made a suggestion the other day for column material. Initially, I rejected the suggestion, yet upon a closer look realized that the idea had merit. His view was that events and situations occur regularly throughout the community which spark the question, “What were they thinking?”
Photographs would suffice in many cases, as these kinds of photo opportunities present themselves daily all through the town. It could be a regular feature, or every once in a while at least, as things crop up. Addressing thoughtless actions could be trickier than it appears, as someone would have to cull through all the week’s faux pas, boo-boos and just plain dumb behavior by community members. Choosing one event and featuring it in the paper is a form of editorial opinion, as well as deciding if there has been anything blatantly brainless enough to fill the space.
The mere mention of the incident in print might give it more weight and recognition than is due. While I am not aware of the legal ramifications of that selection, I can just see a few folks protesting printing the picture or article. They might view it as a form of slander. In other cases, what one person views as stupidity, another sees as brilliance. Sometimes things are best left unsaid.
If you could get rid of something that you feel detracts from your community, what would it be? Addressing the issue of living in rural America, one radio interviewer recently asked this question of a few panelists. I conducted my own informal survey by asking a few people who happened to pass by me that day the same question. Some of the answers I got weren’t surprising — the gossip, the negativism, the disheveled appearance of both ends of Market Street and the isolation. No one mentioned the extraordinarily thoughtless things done or said daily.
The one that caught me by surprise was the mention of the distinction between old-timers and newcomers (even if they have lived in the town for almost 30 years). That respondent went on to say that the distinction was so finite as to affect a person’s involvement in the community — their power to affect their chosen community. The close-knit fabric of a community is held together by all the people that call it home, no matter how long they have lived in the area.
When people first join our community, many of them go for total immersion and donate a lot of time and energy to various community projects. Others seem to resent that lack of inclusion, as even if they are welcomed heartily, they often report that Meeker feels closed and non-welcoming when they try to be active in community projects. If this inclusiveness was carefully thought out by long time community members, it would qualify for the “what were they thinking” type of behavior.
Some people seem very sure that brain leakage is either only present in small towns, or in this particular small town. It seems to be a nationwide phenomenon. There must be a study out there somewhere that has charted and graphed this type of behavior. I’m not sure a weekly dose of this type of article would do much for the community. Rather than rejecting the new column idea outright, maybe I should have asked the reader the very same question, “What were YOU thinking?”
— dolly@theheraldtimes.com