As a community we usually demand many things, but how willing are we to give back? Many of us say that we contribute with our work, or by paying our taxes, and that is fine, but what actions have we taken to improve the city in which we live?
Many of us have expressed apathy at the time of getting involved in decision-making processes that can affect us as a society. Ask yourself: when was the last time you participated in an activity for the benefit of your community? When was the last time you attended a meeting with your City Council representative?
Some time ago I had the opportunity to talk with a member of Charlotte’s City Council, who asked me:
How can I get Latinos involved with local government? I have organized several community meetings to discuss policies that will affect them, but there is little participation among Latinos.
My first response to this concern was to defend the community by using the excuse of fear. I said that many immigrants, especially the undocumented, have a fear of going out. In response the councilman replied,
this may be true, but I am surprised to see the large number of Latinos who fearlessly go to nightclubs every week. These words included a painful dose of truth.
, James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling came out with a revolutionary yet simple idea called the
broken windows theory, which basically states that if we are indifferent about social problems, even the small ones, they will grow and affect everyone.
The title of the theory comes from the following example: imagine a house with a broken window. If, after many days, the window is still not repaired, vandals will tend to break more windows. Later, they might even break into the house, and if it is abandoned, it may be occupied by criminals.
Or consider trash on a sidewalk in a vacant lot in a neighborhood. If no one picks it up, more and more garbage will accumulate. Eventually people will start to leave bags of trash, and little by little the place will become an unwelcome public dump, affecting the image of the entire neighborhood.
A good strategy for preventing vandalism, say the authors of the theory, is to address problems when they are still small. If broken windows are repaired quickly, there will be less of a tendency for vandals to break more windows or do further damage. The same applies to keeping the streets clean.
This theory has been put into practice with great success in cities like New York and Albuquerque, New Mexico, where simple acts of cooperation and order have helped to reduce crime.
It is very important for you to get involved in your community. Participate with your family and your church in activities that help improve the place where you live. Go to the local government’s community meetings, and remember that the city where you live is your home.
Recalling the words of the writer Elie Wiesel, a survivor of the concentration camps in Nazi Germany:
The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.