Attitudes are contagious

Published 8:03 pm Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Letter by letter, I put up the sign on the message board at the church.

“Attitudes are contagious. Is yours worth catching?” the new message was intended to say.

I had taken down the letters from the previous message from the asking people to “Pray for a bountiful harvest.” I was almost through with the replacement message when I realized I was short one of the letter “T”. There are six “T’s” in my attitudes message, one more than available. The message would have to change.

Email newsletter signup

“A World of Love will make a World of Difference” was my new replacement message. However, it was a bit of a surprise when I saw Sunday’s bulletin stating the topic of this week’s sermon, which was all about attitudes. Sometimes the Lord has a sense of humor.

I have been acutely aware of things going in my small community in the past week or so. Saturday was a clean-up day with teams of volunteers challenged to pick up trash along the various roads coming into town. Despite being gone for most of the week, I was up early on Saturday. The teams were already diligently picking up trash in an effort to make our community more attractive.

The same morning there was a group of people planting shrubs and plants at the newest city park. Greenery framed the latest mural in town showcasing the old Memorial Hospital. How impressive the new parking lot and landscaping looks in the space made available by the demolition of long closed hospital.

Despite the tough economic times and the cutbacks on municipal spending, I am proud to see all the work being done to beautify our town. Downtown Development Authority grants are focused on the improvement of the facades of the various buildings. Several businesses are taking advantage of this generous grant.

When you take a moment and look at the changes of the past few years, you can’t but help but be impressed with all the work being done. Donalsonville’s downtown has new sidewalks and streetlights. Trash cans are strategically placed to keep the streets clean. Benches, trees and shrubbery are placed to enhance the downtown area.

The old concrete plant has also been demolished clearing up an eyesore that has been around for the last decade. “Welcome to Donalsonville” signs are placed at every entrance into town, with flowers and a manicured grassy area accenting the signs.

I often hear about how alive this community was a generation or two ago. I am sure that that was true as families came to town to shop, visit and go to the movies. Donalsonville lost part of that dynamic with the four-lane highways headed to Dothan and Bainbridge. If you want to see someone from Donalsonville on Sunday afternoon, then just head to a Wal-Mart in one of the neighboring towns.

However, on Saturday morning I realized that our future isn’t just about the competitive difficulties all small towns face. It is about the attitudes of the people who for whatever reason continue to call small town America home.

When a building is painted it leads to so much more. Put some new landscaping around a long neglected building and watch it come to life. Clean some windows. Edge along the sidewalk. Just as in business, success breeds success.

Enthusiasm breeds a new attitude that helps everyone believe that things can indeed be better. Then before you know it, you find that attitudes are indeed contagious.

What can we do to make our community better? The Internet gives you the opportunity to anonymously post comments about where we live. I am struck by the negativity such a forum produces. Do people really feel this way about where they choose to live?

When I moved to Donalsonville 34 years ago, I wasn’t happy. I had grown up in an even smaller town and was ready for the big city. I promised my Dad I would be leaving in five years, no matter what the success of the peanut mill that brought me to town.

Along the way I learned what great people there are in this area. Not just Donalsonville, but Bainbridge, Colquitt, Blakely and all of southwest Georgia. Politics gave me a chance to embrace all of southwest Georgia and unexpectedly, for them to embrace me in return.

The schools prepared my children to compete in three very academically challenging universities. Was the school system perfect? No. Were my children prepared? Absolutely.

The older people in the community, especially in my church, took us under their wing. I can’t underestimate the importance of that in our adopted community. It is now my responsibility to do the same for some young family finding their way.

When I have been sick, I have been treated with the latest technology and diagnostic tools. We have an amazing hospital and doctors for the size of our town.

We have a lake that is growing in prominence around the country, helping attract fishermen and their dollars, particularly to Bainbridge and Donalsonville.

I can buy most foods in local grocery stores and can get better biscuits and burgers than I could in the largest cities of the world.

Reluctantly, I still will have to visit Wal-Mart to purchase certain things. I will still have to travel a good distance to visit a white tablecloth restaurant. But I won’t have to go anywhere to find some of the finest people in the world.

The older I get, the more my attitude about this place I call home changes. That attitude makes me look for the good about living here and in doing so I become happier, more content. As I look around, I see others with the same attitude. Perhaps it is contagious. Wouldn’t it be great if we all caught it?