Last month I talked about “Three Wishes” for a community. With this column I’d like to continue that conversation with other questions I ask communities to learn about them.
One of the questions I ask when I visit a community is, “What should I see in the area?”
Sometimes I get a good answer; sometimes nothing. When I was in Nelson, the clerk told me I should go see The Faces. She explained that there were face statues on the outside of the building downtown. They are very interesting. Sometimes the person I ask can’t think of anything for me to see. Every town has something unique, but people often forget the things they see every day are actually interesting to someone new. Rural Prosperity Nebraska has a program called Red Carpet Service that helps with this issue.
Red Carpet Service is a program to train front line workers (retail, restaurant, and hotel workers) who work with customers, and to teach them how to talk about their the unique aspects of their community.
Another question that I ask is, “What good things have happened in your community in the last year?”
Many times I get a blank stare as an answer. Sometimes it feels like a community isn’t making progress, but progress can be slow. Building one new home in a community may be something that hasn’t happened for decades, so it is something to celebrate.
Before I go in and talk to a community member, I tour the community and take pictures. If I notice new construction or new businesses, I try to suggest answers. Some people tell me about the latest festival that took place in the community. The best answers are those about new businesses, houses, and festivals that have happened in the last year. I can tell that these people are invested in their community and proud of what the community is accomplishing.
When I’m learning about a community, I like to ask, “What group or person is doing good things in the community?”
Sometimes asking the previous question makes people forget important progress, but when I ask who is doing things, it jogs their memories. This question not only provides me with more good things that are going on in the community, but also with contacts to follow up with later on.
A new question I need to add to my list of questions is, “What would you miss about this community if you moved away?”
Over time, you become so familiar with your town that you forget what is special in your community. Is there somewhere in town you like to eat, or a park you like to visit? If you moved away and came to visit, what would you do? The answers to these questions are the things that are important to you in your community. There is a certain restaurant that I like to visit when I go to the town I grew up in. It’s one of the things that I miss from that community. The grease also probably shortens my lifespan a little bit each time, but it’s worth it.
The next time you’re driving through your community, think about all the progress made in the last year. Those could be events, new buildings, or connections built between people. All of these things have an impact on your community and, over time, the impact can make a community grow. Small changes add up.
Be warned that when I visit your community, I come with questions. I want to learn about what you’re doing, and then come with you on your journey to help you do more.
If your community could benefit from any of the Rural Prosperity Nebraska ideas that I’ve discussed in this column, please reach out to me. I’d love to speak to your community about these topics. You can reach me at email@example.com or at the Thayer County office at 402-768-7212.
Jason Tuller is an Extension Educator for the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. He works in the Rural Prosperity Nebraska program and covers ten-county area including Kearney, Adams, Clay, Fillmore, Saline, Franklin, Webster, Nuckolls, Thayer, and Jefferson Counties.