Tomorrow those of us in the U.S. will celebrate the 237th birthday of our country, a commemoration that means different things to different people. For me, as an employee and member of UCT, an organization whose mission is to unite people with a common passion for good citizenship and volunteerism to improve their local communities, the 4th of July is an opportunity to ponder what good citizenship really means.
Of course a good citizen needs to care about one’s nation as a whole, but I think good citizenship ultimately begins at the grassroots. We don’t have to donate all of our time and energy to engage in good citizenship. A few hours here and there right in our own backyards – and communities – can make a big difference. That said, here are some of my thoughts about good citizenship.
– Good citizenship can be as simple as being a good neighbor. Being friendly and knowing and caring about our neighbors can help build valuable social support systems, increase neighborhood safety, protect children and other vulnerable individuals, and generally enrich our lives and the lives of those living closest to us.
– Supporting local businesses with our hard-earned money is a mark of good citizenship. Doing so can boost our local economies, keep the individual character and flavor of your communities alive and healthy, and decrease the likelihood of homogenization and lack or loss of public engagement.
– Good citizenship means getting involved in projects that improve the lives of others in our communities. Planting community gardens, donating items to homeless shelters, volunteering at food banks or soup kitchens, and supporting local schools and libraries are just examples of how to make our communities healthier. And healthier communities ultimately lead to healthier countries.
– We’re not just citizens of our communities and countries; we’re all citizens of the earth, which is why environmental stewardship is essential to good citizenship. Cleaning up local parks and wild places, recycling, remembering not to litter, and buying fewer items with packaging that gets littered are all excellent ways to preserve the integrity of local environments – and serve as examples for other communities to follow.
What do you think? Chances are you’re already practicing good citizenship without even realizing it! Maybe you’re looking for a way to connect with other good citizens to make an impact where you live. If so, let us know – we’d love to help!