On building a barn…

“Any jackass can kick down a barn, but it takes a good carpenter to build one.”

– former U.S. House Speaker Sam Rayburn D-Texas, (1882-1961)

I was in my hometown barber shop, getting my customary disheveled send-up on the classic “high-and-tight” haircut, when a common topic came up: the town and the latest hearsay going around.

But it was no mere gossip we exchanged.

Our conversation was of a greater depth than the latest calumny or scuttlebutt of divorces and drunken carousing.

In fact, it centered more upon matters of economic development, questions of venture or equity capital, and the increasing decline of municipal sales tax revenue in our humble corner of Rusk County.

You see, like me, my barber has strong roots in the community as well as a distinct zeal to help her hometown make the most of its resources.

At one point in our conversation she shared a recent experience that I found troubling.

Talking with another resident about an ambitious project she was considering, she described how the individual tried to utterly douse her enthusiasm about the endeavor. Speaking only of the “obvious fact” that it couldn’t possibly work or it “just wasn’t right” for our community.

Now, I’m all for constructive criticism, but this person couldn’t give anything more substantial than doubt for its own sake. Not explaining how or why something wouldn’t work, but simply dismissing it out of hand. Criticizing something out of simple preference rather than reason.

Too many people are too quick to hide along the sidelines, complaining and lambasting the efforts of those trying to make a difference. Not enough are willing to take the time and get involved, to lend a hand or a voice in making things better.

I think we’ve got a lot of people willing to carp and wail about what’s wrong, without the courage or initiative to make it right. It’s easy to chide the efforts of others, to bemoan what your town, city, state and country are lacking in resource or value, but it takes something of far greater substance to find solutions for problems rather than to simply point them out.

A physician is not esteemed for his ability to diagnose an ailment, but in prescribing a remedy and seeing that it is carried out. Anyone can tell you that your car is leaking oil, but it takes a skilled mechanic to fix the problem.

With all my various comings and goings, I have the privilege of dealing with many people who work to enhance things in their communities. People whom, more often than not, do so for the greater good rather than personal gain.

Of course, if you can enhance the commonwealth while enriching your own coffers, all the better. But I digress…

I am tired of the slander and the backbiting. I’m tired of people so quick to play the Monday morning quarterback, who never bothered to get in the game and huddle up with the team. I’m tired of “I told you so,” and “it’ll never work,” and especially “that’s not the way it’s always been done.”

For those of you not keeping score at home, there are some big problems that need to be solved. In our towns, our country, our world. If you’re not about the business of laying hold of the plow, I suggest you keep your aspersions to yourself, and leave the work to those with the aim of seeing the task through.

I believe, like Teddy Roosevelt, that one of the best prizes life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.

Our communities are worth our time and energy.

Let’s do what we can to make the most of them.


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