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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences

October 18, 2023 - 9:00am --

As the leaves are falling outside my window I’m reminded of the task waiting at home to begin raking the colors of fall into piles. I’m grateful for the health to do this but have often wondered, who might I help in our neighborhood.

When the girls were home I felt strongly to live the example and share with others. Whether that’s taking a meal or helping rake the leaves that we, not only, appreciate what we have but to take part in a bigger community and to make contributions.

As I reflect on what being a citizen of our great nation means, here’s what I’ve summarized over the years (though I’m sure other items could be added). As you read through this, take time to evaluate what values are held sacred in your family and how they might be implemented or reinforced.

Citizenship and responsibility

Citizenship is more than where you are born or live. It’s about a choice to share in the community in which you live. A community is built by building relationships between individuals in the same area. It means you practice making life better for those that you share with.

Good citizenship is knowing about the community and caring enough to put your knowledge, talents, and energy to use to make the community a better place to live' (Exercising Character, Character Counts curriculum). As we share with our children the concept that citizenship is not just knowing about our government and the rules and laws we live by, it’s about learning to work with, and for, others around us.

Responsibility is a key concept in being a good citizen. Whether you are a member of a family, a congregation, a community, a state, or a nation you have rights and responsibilities to uphold the tasks required of you.

'Intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character, that is the goal of true education.' — Martin Luther King Jr.

Being a good citizen is a learned behavior. It’s more than knowing our country’s history and how it functions. It requires action with that knowledge to move us forward from where we are at the moment. Here are some ideas you might like to try as a family:

Create a make-a-difference day: choose several service projects that you might see need for in your community and establish a timeline (one a month, once every 4 months, etc.) Look for ways to practice random acts of kindness. Do something nice for someone, just because. Send notes or cards to your local police or fire station and thank them for their protection Look around (parents can help/support as necessary) and see how you might help others in your neighborhood (raking leaves, shoveling snow, taking pets for a walk, etc.)

Talk about what rules you obey and why those rules are important to your safety and the safety of those around you. Take time to really study the information on issues for the upcoming election and discuss them during travel times or meal times.

Here are a couple of books you might like to read and discuss with your younger children:

"My Teacher for President" by Kay Winters (Dutton Children’s Books, 2004); "I Pledge Allegiance" with commentary by Bill Martin Jr. and Michael Sampson (Candlewick press, 2002)

Wayne County is a wonderful place to live because these values are held in high regard. Thank you to all the wonderful parents and community service workers who make our lives safe, and secure because of the roles you play.

Melinda Hill is an OSU Extension Family and Consumer Sciences Educator and may be reached at 330-264-8722 or
This article was previously published in The Daily Record.