In this part of the country, we’re so welcoming of others there’s actually a term for it: Southern hospitality. This term reflects our warmth and friendliness. It also says something about our drive to please.
Even so, a recent study in the journal Psychological Science suggests that Americans are becoming more selfish. We might like to think that we’re immune from such barbarity down here, but evidence suggests otherwise. We read the same books, watch the same television shows and participate in the same social media activities as our neighbors west and north.
Despite our mommas’ good teaching, we too fall prey to baser urges. Knowing this, we should be vigilant against the tendency to put self first. Here in Pine Bluff, we have innumerable opportunities to demonstrate hospitality, selflessness and communitarian values.
In recent editions of The Commercial, there have been several examples of people working to make our hometown more inviting. In the first instance, there was a report detailing a grand initiative in local education.
As the Friday edition reflected, Simmons First National Corp., CEO-elect George Makris announced that a group of community business leaders known as the Advisory Committee will be paying the $44,000 expense for the Pine Bluff School District’s participation in the first year of a three-year turnaround program.
Of the project Makris said, “It is no secret that the Pine Bluff School District has had its problems over the past two years, but we now have a wonderful superintendent in Dr. (Linda) Watson and a brand-new set of faces on the school board. We all know that if we don’t do something to turn the district around, then it is very likely that the state will come in and do it for us. Now, I don’t think any of us want to see that happen.”
How true. No one will come in and tend our garden as well as we might. Makris’ group may have resources that many of us do not, but the one thing to which we all have access is commitment.
While nobody gets much support in these parts by spouting Karl Marx, he had one idea worth remembering. In his 1875 work, Critique of the Gotha Program, Marx wrote, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” In other words, we are all obliged to do our part.
Of course, Marx’s idea wasn’t wholly original. There are two passages in the Bible that get to exactly the same point. Matthew 25:14-30: And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to each according to his ability. And he went abroad at once. Acts 4:32: All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.
In addition to the generosity of Makris’ group, there was another report of good-hearted citizens attempting to make a difference – this time in the local museum community.
As the report indicated, Pine Bluff is home to a group of unique museums that are in need of dedicated volunteers to serve as guides and greeters and to assist with special events and maintenance. Greg Gustek, director of the Pine Bluff Convention and Visitors Bureau, elaborated: “The problem we are having is many of the great volunteers we have relied upon are getting too old to help us, and two of our volunteers at the Arkansas Entertainer’s Hall of Fame passed away over the past few months. I know there are some people who would love to do this.”
Even a quick pass through most of the museums and cultural centers found in Little Rock validates Gustek’s assertion. Those halls are filled with energetic and youthful volunteers (even if some of them are only remembering their youth).
We should follow the great examples provided above. Whether we have vast resources or just ourselves and a little time, we can make our city better. We’re needed. We’re obliged to try.