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(file photo)It's about time we stop shopping for leaders and start planting and growing our own.
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Maybe it's just me, but that seemed to be the resounding message from last night's "Issues Ales" event at WorkPlay. The gathering, hosted by WBHM 90.3 FM and its Junior Advisors, featured a series of panels that examined community leadership and civic engagement.
The three-hour discussion included voices from the media and political and business sectors, but it was a phrase fromJefferson County Commissioner Sandra Little Brown that stuck with me on the ride home.
When it comes to leadership, Brown urged listeners to not rely on what they're given but to create their own success.
"I'm gonna give you some food, but show you how to grow food too," she said.
That phrase made me flash back to summers with my father nearly 20 years ago. My dad owns a trucking company and, in those days, he also owned a lot where he parked his dump trucks.
Adjacent to that lot was my father's gigantic garden well, it seemed gigantic to my preteen eyes. That's probably because my younger brother and I had to tend the thing in the summer heat.
It was just me, my brother and seemingly endless rows of squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, corn and watermelon. And the sun berating us from above.
Needless to say, gardening isn't something that most city kids can relate to. I clearly remember a friend asking, "Why wait forever to grow vegetables when you can just buy them from the store?"
I couldn't answer that question back then. But today, things are much clearer.
Gardening wasn't just summer busy work. It was a lesson in self-reliance.
Birmingham could use a little of that.
For far too long, our community has suffered under the mismanagement of flawed leaders. Time and again, they've put bureaucracy and politics ahead of growth and progress. But finally, redevelopment, positive press and good ol' fashioned hope is steering us in the right direction.
And with the news that , I can't think of a better time to take control of our own destiny.
Instead of waiting for others to feed us, it's time we produce our own fruits.
Am I suggesting we all run for political office? Certainly not. Most of us aren't built to be politicians. But along with placing intelligent, forward-thinking representatives in key positions, it's imperative that we becomes leaders in your own spheres of influence.
You don't need a title in front of your name to lead. Educators don't have to run for school board to mentor students and encourage parents to further learning at home.
Businesses shouldn't be afraid to raise their voices on issues that directly affect them speaking out against.
Churches, take off those corsages and white usher gloves and get your hands dirty with community projects. Reach out and connect with those people you've pledged to serve.
Like my dad taught all those years ago, keeping your personal landscape fertile and free of invasive weeds goes a long way in producing fruit.
Everything is so much more satisfying when it's homegrown.
Edward T. Bowser is a community engagement specialist for AL.com and The Birmingham News. Reachhim on Twitter, visit hisor email.