National Night Out

Albany is the first place I’ve lived that celebrates National Night Out by supporting block parties and other community gatherings.  My neighborhood has been participating for six or seven years, and I’m fairly sure I would not know many of my neighbors were it not for this annual activity.

Even though the houses on my block are close together, I have relatively few opportunities to interact with those who live around me.  Most of us drive in and out of our garages without pausing to talk and we tend to stay in our homes or backyards during our free time.  I go running early in the morning, and the only other time I’m usually in the front yard is to cut the grass and weed the flower beds.  We have a small yard, and these activities don’t take much time.  My next door neighbors took out their grass and replaced it with shrubs and mulch, so they are in their front yard even less than I’m in mine.

My large family keeps me busy with birthdays, youth sports, plays, musical recitals and church activities, to name a few.  Today, we are celebrating the birth of our newest grandson who was born late last night.  When you have a dozen grandchildren and more on the way, you never run short of things to do.  We were able to include seven of our grandchildren in this year’s National Night Out, and I joked with some of the neighbors that we didn’t really need anyone outside of our family to have a crowd at our event.

I believe our neighborhoods are safer and better places when we know each other and take the occasional opportunity to stay connected.  Our homes have become so comfortable that it’s easy to forget the advantages of getting out of them to know your neighbors.  I might never have known, for example, that many of my neighbors come from very different parts of the world.  On our block we have people from Wales, India, the Ukraine, Mexico, Germany, and China.  I believe we also have some folks from the Middle East, but they haven’t participated in the block party yet.

I greatly appreciate the good work of all City employees who contribute to this important event.  I assumed some responsibility for organizing our neighborhood’s activities this year, and I appreciated the help I received at Public Works with getting barriers for the street, plus the presence of the Police and Fire Departments at our gathering.  I think the fire truck did at least four or five laps around the block to accommodate all the children who wanted rides, and all of our grandchildren are still proudly wearing their police tattoos.  The Mayor organized a hot dog feed in her neighborhood and, judging from her Facebook postings, had great participation as well.  I know she shares my appreciation of everyone who helped make this important event happen.

The Optimist Creed

Earlier this week, I was invited to speak to the Optimist Club of Albany at their regular meeting in the Sizzler Restaurant.  I routinely speak to service clubs because I think these talks are a good way to explain what the City is doing and answer questions or address concerns of people who are active in community affairs.  I realized the title of my talk may have been a little inappropriate when, after the Pledge of Allegiance, the dozen or so members in attendance began reciting the Optimist Creed.  My talk was entitled, “Ten Questions to Help You Judge If Your City is Going Bankrupt,” and the Optimist Creed is as follows:

Promise Yourself…

  • To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.
  • To talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person you meet.
  • To make all your friends feel that there is something in them.
  • To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.
  • To think only of the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best.
  • To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.
  • To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.
  • To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile.
  • To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others.
  • To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.”

I really like talking to people who have no time to criticize, partly because it’s rare for a city manager to encounter people who honor this creed.  The title of my talk may have sounded pessimistic, but the general message was that the City of Albany is not going bankrupt and that there are a number of ways citizens can find that out for themselves.  City managers have a vested interest in optimism about the community’s future, so it’s a good idea to be able to verify information independently whether one is an optimist  or not.

It’s been awhile since I’ve patronized a Sizzler, but I’ve found myself inside Albany’s twice in the past week.  I knew I was in the right place when I walked into the meeting room and the first Optimist I saw was wearing an Oregon Ducks T-shirt.  I soon learned after sitting down next to him (naturally) that he started delivering the newspaper to my home a few weeks ago, which explains why my paper is now on my porch every morning instead of getting waterlogged on the lawn.  Frequent readers of this column will understand the importance of this issue.

I am sure Optimist Club members have their bad days, but everyone I spoke with seemed happy, engaged, thoughtful, and kind.  The meeting was a good reminder that many people in our community are positive and caring most of the time.  I also appreciated hearing the Optimist Creed and hope I can apply it in my own life.