But You Don’t Live Here.

Posted on January 25, 2022


Today’s Buzz is by Morning Buzzer Kim Nakahodo – connect with her on LinkedIn & Twitter!

There is an interesting phenomenon that I have only seen in local government.  It isn’t talked about much, but it is the notion that you don’t care or can’t understand things in a community because you don’t sleep there.  We are all familiar with NIMBY, but this notion is different – it only surfaces when things matter –  when conversations veer into uncomfortable or protected topics.  When the stakes are high, and the options are limited.

But you don’t live here.

Every public servant has heard these words spoken to them.  They are meant to hurt us, to be hateful, and to make us feel like we don’t have the right to love the community we serve.   In extreme circumstances, these words are followed by threats to our safety or our very lives.   These words hit their mark quickly and efficiently, especially to those personally vested in serving a community.  They reach into our souls and make us question why we put ourselves out there for public criticism and disdain.

This sentiment is tough for public servants as we know a community in a way those who only live there never see.  The side that is purposely hidden from neighbors and visitors.  We see the side that hurts, the side you don’t share on curated social media posts, the human side.  We answer your call when you are most scared, when something has gone terribly wrong.  We come to your aid when you need it most.  We see you at your most vulnerable, on your worst day.  We run toward the danger so that you can run from it.  We work around the clock to make sure the drinking water you serve your family is clean and safe.  We ensure that the water you use leaves your home quickly and is properly treated to protect our waters for the future.

You confide in us that you can’t pay your utility bill.  You call us when there are problems with your neighbor, but you don’t want to, or are too scared, to talk to them.  Your family calls us when they can’t reach you to see if we will check on you.  We inspect buildings and playgrounds to ensure that you and your family are safe.

We train every day to be as skilled as we can be, if you need us.  We pick up the trash you throw on the ground.  We fix your sewage pipes with our hands, in the cold, in the dark.  We maintain your public spaces so you can teach your children to ride their bikes.  We work overnight to clear the road so you can make your morning appointment.  We celebrate your victories and mourn your losses.  We miss concerts, birthdays, anniversaries, ball games, so that when you need help, we are there for you.

As public servants, we spend every waking moment thinking of the communities we serve.  We ask ourselves; how can we serve our community better, more efficiently, more transparently?  We strive to learn new ideas, better ways to provide public services, remove barriers for participation, and address long-standing issues in the community we serve.  We attend conferences, read peer-reviewed articles, attend listening sessions, read past meetings minutes and news clips, speak with neighborhoods to understand issues in our community, so that we can bring forward different perspectives to community leaders.

When we go on vacation, we take photos of infrastructure and open spaces of the places we visit to bring back new ideas to our ‘awake’ home, the community we love and serve.

Even when we are with our families, we think of you.  You get the best of us; our loved ones get the leftovers.  We arrive home, weary, mentally, and emotionally drained.  We spend more time awake with you, than our families.  We may lay our heads down outside of your legal boundaries, but when we dream, we replay our failures, your frustrations, and our shared hopes for the future.

Although our physical bodies ‘don’t live here’ – our minds, hearts, and souls live with you.

(BTW, this was a really tough blog to write and I hope I haven’t overshared where my heart is right now.)
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