Are people more than their titles or are people simply the titles they have? Sometimes when I read the paper, watch the news, or read an article on the Internet, it seems that we as a culture tend to make much of the title a person has and pay very little attention to who the person actually is.
It becomes very easy to attack one another when we limit people to their titles. For example, if I only knew Mary Olson as the mayor of Marion, it would limit my understanding of her as a person. However I know she used to be a teacher, she volunteers with children at Circles of Hope each week, and she attends her church faithfully.
If I only knew Doug Kjellin as the city administrator, I wouldn’t really know him at all. However I know he is a man that loves his family, cares deeply about his work, plays the bass guitar in a praise band, and enjoys being around people that are making music.
These are only two examples of the many people in our community who are more than their titles. The point is that we are too small of a community to allow our titles to define who we are and how we relate to one another.
If I am no more than the reverend to followers of Jesus, then my ability to relate with others is terribly stilted. If I am no more than the board member to employees of USD 408, then any efforts at sincerity are met with skepticism. What allows us to work alongside one another in this community is that we are more than our titles. We are the parents or grandparents of our children or grandchildren. We are the coaches of the teams. We are the volunteers in the Sunday schools. We are the coworkers, the neighbors, the friends.
There has been some ink spilled lately about “trust.” While it would be wonderful to be able to wave a wand and cause all people to trust one another that doesn’t seem too likely to happen anytime soon. So here is my suggestion. We need to get to know one another beyond our titles and beyond what we read in the paper.
Is there someone you disagree with? Have a conversation with them about family, about hobbies, about anything but that which you disagree with them about. This is not to ignore it, but to provide some context the next time you talk so that disagreeing might be something that can be done civilly with understanding and mutual respect.
We are a community that stands dangerously close to a future that I wrote about a couple months ago. I had at least one person accuse me of using scare tactics to motivate the population. Anyone who knows me, knows I do not use scare tactics or guilt trips to motivate.
I believe in the strength of community. It is a strength that will only be realized when we start being honest about what our hopes are for the future of our town. What we don’t need is apathy or dishonesty, skepticism or deceit. We have many assets to promote. If we are only going to focus on the minutiae that divides us, we will never realize the values that unite us. It’s time to dismiss the doubters and bring together those with a vision for a better Marion.