I have worked at several places over my 53 years. Even though they were in different industries, they all had one thing in common. I didn’t see the warts until after I started working there. All of my jobs had them. But let me make one thing very clear from the start: I came to this job knowing full well what I was getting into. Warts and all. And I am loving it so get used to it. I’m not going anywhere.
Now, with that out of the way, let me explain about everywhere else. The enthusiasm and excitement of a new job can, in a way, put blinders on a person. Over time, as we get more accustomed to our surroundings and co-workers, we see the warts. We see the imperfections. If we aren’t careful, we can become disillusioned. We start to pick at the scabs of self- inflicted wounds as we question our decisions. It’s just like going to a movie that has had nothing but rave reviews from our friends and all the media. We sit in our seats with preconceived notions that invariably cannot be lived up to. We walk away from the theater disappointed and a bit angry at the wasted effort of the moment.
Over the past several weeks as I have attended meetings around the county in my role as editor, I have met numerous people from both the private and public sectors. I have come to know politicians, elected officials, private citizens, members of civic clubs and small business owners. The common thread among all of them is that they are good people. For years, Saline County has been given the reputation of being the home of dirty politics and the ‘good old boy’ network. Notice I used the word ‘given’ and not ‘earned.’
Now, I’m not foolish enough to think neither of these two descriptions is not present among us — they are. Only a fool or an invader from outer space would dare say otherwise. But not to the extent it may feel as if they are. In my opinion, we are too quick to base facts upon the anger or frustration we feel in a situation. Over time, this frustration grows from a feeling to a cold, hard fact. Then, it spreads around to others as a fact. Others tell friends who tell their friends who tell other friends. Before long, a reputation is ‘given’ and it sticks.
I can tell you right now that what I have experienced thus far as to the character and integrity of the people of this county is based upon fact, not feeling. We have elected officials that are doing their best to create a climate in this county that is positive. They are trying their darndest to do the right thing. They have vision. They have determination. And one thing most of them have in common is determination.
But they also have another thing in common. They have obstacles in the form of well-intended, and not so well-intended, people and organizations and parties who do the scab-picking and reputation giving. Some can’t help it; Some can. Some think the issue is greater than it really is. Some see conspiracy under every rock and behind every smile. And that is where problems grow.
It reminds me of that old story about a man who owned a gas station on the edge of a city. One day a stranger pulls up to fill his tank and says to the station owner, “I’m looking for a new town to live in. What’s this town like?” The owner responded, “Well, what was it like in the town you came from?”
“Oh, it was a great place. The people were friendly. Everyone got along. It was a great place to live.” The owner thought for a moment and responded, “That’s exactly the kind of place you will find here.” The visitor hopped in his car with a wide smile and headed to his new hometown.
About 30 minutes later, another man pulled in for a fill up. “Hi,” he said. “I’m looking for a new town to live in. What’s this town like?”
“Well, what was it like in the town you came from?” answered the owner.
“Oh, it was a horrible place. The politicians were corrupt. The people were ignorant and it was a horrible place to live.”
The owner responded, “That’s exactly the kind of place you will find here.”
The man jumped in his car, smug with his knowledge that he had avoided a huge mistake by staying at this new town.
Well, the moral of the story is clear. We end up with those things we are determined to find. If we seek the bad, we find it. If we seek the good, we find it. And if you really look hard, good isn’t that difficult to find. It is hidden in plain sight all around us. Take a peek.
The Saline Courier Editor-in-chief Brent Davis is a lifelong resident of Benton and Saline County. The Courier has been part of his life for as long as he can remember. He is a graduate of Benton High School. His Sunday column appears at least twice a week: on Fridays and Sundays on the Opinion Page and on www.bentoncourier.com .View more articles in: