Thursday, October 10, 2013

Optimism Breeds Energy (and vise versa)

I've never liked motivational posters, books and speakers. I think it's because, as a writer, I see them as nothing but cheap words. Broad and obvious statements like "Today is the First Day of the Rest of Your Life" are easy to say, but are pretty useless compared to practical advice like "Do Not Stop On Railroad Tracks."

But Norristown, you need motivation, so I'll do my best. Maybe I can mix it with some practical advice.

Let's approach it scientifically. Say you need to move a boulder. The law of inertia states that an object at rest is going to stay put unless you apply energy to it. You can push that boulder, lift it, blow it into bits of gravel, or apply enough heat to melt it, but apply no energy and that rock's not budging. Still, honestly, the biggest hurdle is deciding whether or not you feel able and willing to move it. If you think the boulder can't be moved, you won't look for the energy source to do the job. If you're optimistic about the possibility of moving it, you'll find the energy, and/or recruit others to help. Even if those people don't at first believe that the boulder can budge, once you show them sufficient energy, they'll say, "Yeah, maybe this can work," and try harder.

In the last months, I've been attending meetings or events of volunteer groups around Norristown, as well as zoning workshops, plus Council and Planning Commission meetings, and I can say for sure that the borough's biggest problem is discouragement.

Council meetings are the worst--there's not one iota of positive energy in those chambers. Even when they're talking about things that will make our quality of life better (like the new truck ordinance that will get large trucks off our residential streets and out of our parking spaces), you get the impression most of them would rather be anyplace else. No one in the audiences at those meetings ever leaves with the feeling that our councilpeople are optimistic about the future of Norristown. You get no sense that they're seeing far into the future at all. The atmosphere is more one of a bunch of folks gathered to do distasteful chores, and the attitude is "I'm not going to do more than I have to." Linda Christian seems to have the most energy, but often seems to be swimming upstream against the inertia of the rest. The sooner we get the other incumbents out of office, the better.

The Planning Commission? Only 3 or 4 of them (out of 7) even show up for meetings. I haven't been to a School Board meeting yet, but I've read about their actions. They don't seem to believe in our schools or community any more than the people moving out of town to enroll their kids elsewhere.

Even at meetings of volunteer groups, I've heard people say "I don't know why I'm here," or "People won't come to Norristown," or, when talking about trash and litter, "That's so typical of Norristown," or, when talking about crime, "You have to expect that in a city." I hear a lot of people willing to point out the town's problems, or reminisce about "the way things used to be," but few people actually believing things can get better enough to apply energy towards solutions.

People won't come to Norristown? Maybe because we never publicize anything. This weekend we're having a car show. Google it. You won't find it listed anywhere on the 'net outside of the calendar and the Norristown Businesses/Events facebook page. The Times Herald hasn't mentioned it, though maybe they will tomorrow, because they seem to believe that their readers don't make weekend plans until the last minute. The Norristown Patch did have an article on it, though it was a month ago. Come on, it's not that hard to send out press releases and get on local media's community calendars. And I'll say it again, join Norristown neighborhoods there already have 56 members and it's growing every day. Post your events there.

Right now, I think our most energetic and optimistic group is our Dragon Boat Club. The positive energy they had at Riverfest was amazing, and they're not stopping there. They're sponsoring a Monster Mash 5K Run/Walk on Saturday the 19th. We can all learn from this group. Be positive. TAKE ACTION.

Discouragement and pessimism is sapping the energy out of this town. Lack of energy leads to inertia. Inertia means things won't get better. But focus on how we can make improvements, even if in small steps, and we'll become more optimistic for the future. That optimism will give us the energy to get things moving again.

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