EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD: Getting dirty helps improve our communities

2013-03-31T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD: Getting dirty helps improve our communitiesBy Mark Wilkins nwitimes.com
March 31, 2013 12:00 am  • 

From the cocoon of my office, I can look out the window and see that spring is slowly creeping back into our corner of Northwest Indiana.

The snow that recently made its belated appearance is dissolving into a gray slush, and just recently the first anemic robin arrived in my yard. I have to say he looked a bit worse for his winter wear, but the sight of him gave me hope.

For most of us in “da region,” the desire for spring is more than just a wish for better weather. It is a longing deep in our souls that has been imparted to us by countless Januarys, as we sat numbly watching the wind blowing snow horizontally past our windows on a direct trajectory from the Arctic Circle. Given our shared experience, the need and hope of spring is a much a part of our character as the need for air.

There is nothing so soul-satisfying to the average citizen of Northwest Indiana than waking up to the aroma of wet dirt assailing us from the world around. This is the first sign spring is on its way.

Something about moisture and dirt is electrifying and life giving to many of us, particularly those of the male species. Most males, at an early age, develop an attraction for wet dirt, and it never quite leaves us. When we are young it is our original plaything -- something to be molded, squished between our fingers and occasional thrown at our cohorts. As we grow older it is the stuff that we till up in the spring for our gardens, wash off our bumpers and dig up to plant new bushes. Whereas women tend to come to see mud as an enemy, we men, on some primordial level, see it for the friend it is.

It is a long time since I got really dirty. Not just mildly soiled, but make-your-wife-shriek dirty. But maybe it is about time.

Like a lot of us, every day I read about the needs of our community and our world. Like most of us well-trained, self-entitled citizens, I sit back and wonder when the government will get busy fixing the problems we all see around us. I wonder when some well-intentioned community group will get off their collective backsides and get involved.

Just a few weeks ago, the church of which I am pastor received a visit from the principal of an inner city public school pleading for volunteers to do even basic maintenance at her school. At the time, I grumbled and may have mentioned that someone needs to do something to help out her and her kids.

But maybe what is really required is simply for me to get dirty. Maybe, instead of waiting for a new government program, or some miraculous feat of social re-engineering, what is needed is for all of us to be willing to roll up our sleeves and get hot and tired and utterly dirty changing our communities from within.

Historically, that is what has made our nation great. And in an age of government gridlock and the defunding of social programs, it might be our greatest hope.

All around us every day are problems, but so also are the potential solutions. Volunteerism is what can make our communities stronger. Perhaps we cannot cure the myriad ills that plague us as a society, but we can sure make a dent in them, or at the very least throw a little mud on them. 

It might not be simple, but getting dirty also sounds like a great deal of fun. If you’re looking for me, I think I’ll go play in the mud.

The Rev. Mark Wilkins is senior pastor of First United Methodist Church in Crown Point. The opinions are the writer's.

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