At the start of each new year, society pauses to reflect on the prior year while also outlining an agenda of resolutions for the year ahead. Somewhere in that shuffle of review and soon-to-be broken promises, we often lose sight of the simple course corrections that could make a meaningful impact on the year to come. We have a tendency to make things too complicated.
Our community should embrace one simple, meaningful change in behavior. Start with a “hello.”
Make a resolution to acknowledge and engage those around you. Stop being a stranger within your own neighborhood, whether you live in the city or visit daily for work. Put down your phone. Take off your headphones. When you are among others in public, make the conscious decision to be actively open within your environment. If you don’t make the effort to get to know the people around you, no discussion can reach a meaningful depth. It would be a substantial, yet simple way to start the process of uniting our community through conversation.
The exchange of ideas requires time and energy. Ideas need time to gestate. If we are consistently avoiding conversation and rushing through a discussion merely to get it done, we are not taking advantage of the opportunity to refresh our city.
Could it start with genuine, personal interaction that revolves around the thesis that Harrisburg is a place conversation is embraced? Conversation could be the key to an expansion of positive action. I know that we have a critical mass of individuals who believe vibrant discussion is a good thing for society.
This is happening in Harrisburg every day. It is the spontaneous conversation that erupts in laughter at the corner table at Little Amps. Perhaps it is an economic debate that is considered among friends at the Dauphin County Library System’s McCormick Riverfront Library. Or could it start with a quick greeting exchanged between two runners along the trail? We have no shortage of venues in which to engage in spirited debate.
Harrisburg is a place that we should all proudly identify with, even if there remains room for improvement. In many settings, I have been engaged in conversation on how to make Harrisburg better. I am sure that you have, too. What if we stop merely indulging problems that continue to create discord and shift the conversation to a focus on actionable solutions?
Launch Harrisburg forward with dynamic discourse. This won’t happen unless you are open to the notion of engaging others. The presumption must become that others are open to listening. It also means that we must refrain from pontificating or yelling our message without direction.
Be actively inclusive in your discussion, do it reasonably and without embellishment or vitriol. Limiting dialogue only to ideas that you agree with can be more damaging than it is positive. If there is one area of this process that could be challenging, it is that we will all need to engage in uncomfortable conversations. Listen more. Be thoughtful of your word choice and inflection when you do speak.
Harrisburg, like most good conversation, is a work in progress that ebbs and flows with the energy of its participants. Success is measured by the process as much as the outcome. Finding commonality in purpose is one approach that should be employed to guide our dialogue. We have plenty to disagree about, but finding that one shared vision is way more meaningful (and usually a lot more fun).
If the opportunity for substantial and vibrant conversation is one reason that Harrisburg is already a great place, then its continued success rests squarely with us, its inhabitants. Insightful discourse guides us to make decisions that will provide the most significant impact on our community.
But, in order to have relevant and productive discussion, a baseline understanding of the issues is critical. This means taking time every day to investigate current events and to spend time immersing yourself in history. Be quick to ask for additional information. Be slow to ignore those facts that you don’t immediately recognize as important. History is not important just because we memorize dates and people. Historical facts characterize our sentiments and provide context to our arguments. History gives our present day conversations meaning.
We have a societal obligation to address the issues that impact a community. Issues like safety, taxes and our infrastructure must be actively debated. At the same time, we should not ignore critical elements like the arts and city beautification—engagement is one key component to making sure that these values are woven into the fabric of Harrisburg. Achieving this balance can only be achieved by challenging one another to reflect and talk about what matters.
Find your outlet for discussion. Discussion without activity is wasted energy. Our community has vibrant professional organizations to propel forward unique and critical dialogue. Robust non-profit organizations help to sustain missions that might otherwise not be given the attention they need. Identify something of substance and then share your message.
Make civility the norm and make it routine. Who knows what path a shift to situational awareness and conversation might lead us. When you walk down one of Harrisburg’s streets, make it a point to share a meaningful “hello” with a stranger. We should unite in the concept that Harrisburg is already great and build sustainable success through meaningful discussion.
Andrew M. Enders, Esq. is a third generation insurance professional with Enders Insurance Associates, one of TheBurg’s Community Publishers. He also is the 2016 president of Harrisburg Young Professional