by Christie Masters
This 4th of July marked the first time I have had the privilege to participate in our community’s annual parade. The early morning saw our historic downtown quickly fill with the different groups that would be walking (or riding) down the long streets crowded with families and friends. There were tiny girls twirling batons, high school football teams, cheerleading squads, equestrian clubs on their beautifully groomed horses, local businesses, church youth groups, local candidates running for office, as well as representatives for our city’s police and fire department. As we waited for the signal to begin our march, my friend and I enjoyed watching the different groups practice their unique skills and abilities to be performed in front of the spectators. We agreed that this was something special. So many different associations, made up of people with diverse interests, coming together to celebrate the freedom that makes it possible to pursue our individual dreams and talents. The experience was deeply touching, but also a serious reminder of the importance the role that community and local associations have in preserving a free nation.
Robert Nisbet, of the great conservative intellectual movement, wrote “The Quest for Community” in 1953. His book describes, with an eerie foreshadowing of our present age, how the breakdown of “the ties that bind”, community involvement, the family, and participation in church or local civic associations leads to greater reliance on government to provide an alternative. Government grows when the people cede their freedom in return for greater bureaucracy to solve the problems that once were taken care of by local communities and charities. People become increasingly isolated, losing the positive influences and moral reinforcement that some local associations can provide, and therefore become increasingly reliant upon government to fulfill their needs.
The statistics are grim when we look the rate of divorce, abortion and crime. Other statistics tell us that only 20 percent of Americans attend church regularly. Fewer and fewer people participate in their local politics and policy making, and many spend years in a neighborhood without getting to know those that live close by. The more isolated we become the less local support we have, and when facing serious struggles, we look outside our community, to the government, for help.
What can we do to reverse this trend?
- Consider finding a church if you do not attend one already. The church body has historically, as well as by its very nature, been called to build relationships and help those in need. The struggles that marriages and families face do not have to be endured alone.
- Get involved with your local politics. Become a precinct committee officer for your district, help with a campaign for a candidate that stands for what you believe in. Local candidates for city councils should be very aware of needs in their communities, make sure to voice the concerns that you have and help find solutions.
- Get out and meet your neighbors, have dinner with friends, attend local plays or join a book group. Build relationships with good people. The human heart was created with a desire for these kinds of connections.
- Consider coaching for a baseball or soccer team or another sports program. Getting involved with the local youth on some level, whether it is a volunteer program or teaching a dance or sewing class, can provide a positive influence that can be life-changing.
The “communal glue” that binds us together is made of our families, extended family, church, schools, sports clubs and other local groups. The more extensive our involvement with others, the more likely we are to encourage one another, receive wise council from a pastor or help when needed. We can have a positive impact on those that live near us. These kinds of ties not only bind us to one another, but ultimately build a stronger, freer society.