Progress still to be made here

Lately I’ve been thinking about where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going. By “we” I mean all of us, all of you reading this meandering rant — that is, the people of the greater Rusk County community.

This week the Henderson Daily News rolls out our “progress edition” — a compendium of various articles of local interest on such varied topics as education to health care and local industry. Just in time for this weekend’s 25th Heritage Syrup Festival. In addition to my work on this endeavor, I spent a good bit of time researching and writing of a decorated Rusk County war hero who is likely unknown to most of us.

As a result, my mind is swirling and not a little weary. Thinking of our “progress” and of the brave deeds I am left to ponder what it all means. Our heritage is rich in the agribusiness and energy industries. From the early plantations that once dotted the East Texas landscape, to the towering oil wells that drank deep of the earth’s bounty, there has seldom been a shortage of cultivators and innovators in the history of this area.

But as times (and belts) have tightened, the siren song of other towns have drawn too many of our best and brightest to greener pastures. If we are to capture the imaginations of those with the adequate creative (and financial) resources, we must have a greater sense of ourselves and a higher sense of mission about what we want to accomplish with the time we’ve been given.

If you’ve done any amount of traveling in and around East Texas, you start to notice a pattern among the communities that are flourishing as well as those that resemble a windy tumbleweed-strewn scene from “The Last Picture Show.”

The places that are “doing well” have a few things in common, but the main one that captures my attention is a willingness to invest in themselves. This can be through capital, sure, but the most important means is through the heart. When people come together with a shared passion to transform their community’s present, it cannot help but alter their future. This is done with initiatives that help beautify the aesthetic appearance of a city, even as ongoing needs of the infrastructure are continually being addressed.

We’ve got a lot of strong points — more than may be readily apparent on the surface — but we also have a lot of work to do. Such is the burden of consciousness: “I think therefore I am” and all that.

I know a lot of you see the problems. I hear you all the time. “There’s nothing to do around here.” “I can’t stand this town because of _____.” “This town needs _____.” There’s certainly nothing wrong with holding strong opinions. God bless ya, I’d rather you be too passionate than not enough. But if that passion does not manifest in action, it is as worthwhile as so much hot air. Your complaints are, as the bard once wrote, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Make your time count. Your time is now. Our days are numbered. One of the primary goals in our lives should be to prepare for our last day. The legacy we leave is not just in our possessions, but in the quality of our lives. What preparations should we be making now?

What do you leave behind? Who do you leave with only memories of you? How many hearts do you break when you risk too much and die too young?

The greatest waste in all of our earth, which cannot be recycled or reclaimed, is our waste of the time that God has given us each day.

What you do for yourself is gone when you are, it is what you do for others that is your legacy.

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