Runners will tell you that long distance workouts are a great time to solve problems. The mind seems especially open then and supplies a constant stream of thoughts and ideas. In the mid-1980s, while training for a grueling Ironman triathlon, a recurring theme kept interrupting the focus of Nick Homers run: Who will love and take care of this country after were gone?
The matter of responsible citizenship, of passing down the importance of what it is to be an American and the concept of civic duty, Homer feels, rests squarely upon his shoulders and the rest of his generation. His thoughts that day ultimately spawned a web-book, a nonprofit organization (Good Citizen), as well as a websitewww.goodcitizen.orgall dedicated to achieving his goal.
Each of us, as citizens, could do more for the greater good of all, says Homer, 58, a technology and management consultant from Irvine, Calif. Were not doing the small things that, when done on a day-to-day basis, ensure that the country will continue to be strong, and thus, free.
Small deeds of ordinary citizens make big differences, as Homer sees it, since most of us will never become elected officials. The first challenge, he feels, is to be aware of our heritage as a country.
Most citizens, and in particular our children, dont appreciate why and how we became a nation, Homer says. We havent taught our children about the basic principles and documents upon which the country was founded or of the individuals and events that played major roles in shaping the U.S.A.
Giving a youngster this knowledge, Homer believes, increases awareness and appreciation of the enormous courage, loss of life, pain, mistakes, hard work, and risk that were required to form this country.
In his free-to-all web-book, Who Will Love America?, Homer identifies 100 citizen actions that will involve young Americans in the democratic process.
Attend the naturalization ceremony of a new citizen, he suggests. Hang the American flag and explain its significance to children. Read a book or rent a movie that shows the sacrifices of war and what people have done to escape oppression.
Other acts of good citizenship call for supporting people entrusted with the responsibility of keeping our nation freeelected officials, firemen, law enforcement and military personnel, judicial officials, and teachersand expressing our opinion to those officials or to a broadcast station, publication, or company.
There is no one right way to be a good citizen, no approved list of actions, adds Homer, who has made more than 30 appearances at schools and civic-service organizations on behalf of the project. But once most of us have embedded citizen actions into our daily-weekly routine, the impact will create a beanstalk bigger than Jacks. And keep the country free.
Good Citizen Actions
- Befriend an elderly neighborinvite them to dinner, bring over a dessert, or offer to take them shopping or on an outing.
- Donate blood.
- Interview your grandparents.
- Extend small courtesies to individuals of difference.
- Give away things you dont use.
- Pick up a piece of trash each day.
- Attend a city council meeting, criminal trial, or school board meeting.
- Visit a war memorial.
- Visit an American Indian reservation.
- Serve on a jury if asked.
- Send a care package to a serviceman overseas.
- Participate in an organ donor program.
- Read the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Declaration of Independence.
- Visit Washington, D.C., your state capital or county seat, and attend a legislative session.
- Volunteer in an election campaign.
- Take a car trip across the country.