On the Stanislaus County website, there reads a thought-provoking saying, "Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in."
Though it may come as a surprise, now is perhaps the most applicable time for this postulate. In the midst of the Presidential Election, many individuals remain absorbed in the political agenda, neglecting the fact that there exist other aspects just as crucial for sustaining a democracy. To me, one of the most precious, and probably the most rewarding, is the concept of civic virtue.
Simply put, civic virtue emphasizes the need for the citizenry to mine their souls for a conscience and tailor their individual aims to fit the common good. While civic virtue can pertain to the responsibility of voting and keeping in touch with political happenings, I feel the concept itself encompasses more than that.
To me, civic virtue requires seeing beyond the dense curtain of law and government and actually unlocking the qualities of humanity and graciousness that can be carried out on a regular basis. It serves as the fuel for us to find common ground with friends, neighbors, or strangers and come together as a force for moral excellence and positive change.
It is worth pointing out that the idea of civic virtue is certainly not new; it was pushed into existence as a part of the Founding Fathers' quest to galvanize the new nation's citizenry. And it is certainly not as idealistic or impractical as it may sound. After all, the recent happenings in our town are thankfully reassuring me that civic virtue will be one of the mainstays of Turlock culture, if not American culture.
Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to visit the Community Health and Safety Fair, which was held at the Turlock MedicAlert Center on Colorado Avenue. The fair consisted of multiple booths run by various local organizations and businesses, all gathered with a common aim of enhancing Turlock's wellness. Each station was a pleasure visiting and interacting with, but there were a few that especially touched me.
The Community Health Education Team from Emanuel Medical Center ran a booth providing free blood pressure checks and cardiac arrest information. In addition, CHET enticed passersby to enter the walk-through heart exhibition, which was fully equipped with sound-effects and interactive questions to accommodate all knowledge levels.
One of the team member's young granddaughters even gave up her Saturday to help at the booth's "Teddy Bear Clinic," which was designed to emulate a medical check-up experience for children's furry friends in an effort to convey the importance of regular clinical examinations.
Sprawled out on the lawn nearby were upwards of five booths for different sections of the Lions Club, a global service organization focused on improving eye care and diabetes treatment, among other things, across the world.
One middle-aged woman excitedly showcased a scrapbook of the numerous service projects the local Lions Club participated in. "Here's a picture of us collecting eyewear for the center to distribute! Oh and here's a page about us putting together some aid kits!" she exclaimed with complete sincerity. "Oh it was so much fun! So much fun. You really had to be there to know what I mean. I can't wait to do it again." Nearby, a teenage boy wearing a Lions Club t-shirt nodded in agreement.
A few paces away stood a booth for the Alzheimer's Aid Society, and the gentleman running it was more than happy to explain his work in engendering greater public awareness about the disease and providing much-needed support for caregivers.
Near the parking lot was a farmers' market, where I had the privilege of experiencing that sense of admiration that only comes from witnessing a couple purchase an assortment of sun-kissed tomatoes and golden-hue peaches and gift them to a pair of children walking by.
Fast forwarding to this past Saturday, clean-up teams from across the town convened at Donnelly Park at dawn as a part of the Turlock Shines project to beautify the surroundings, restoring community excellence one broom sweep at a time.
Indeed, the events of these past few weeks amount to one collective observation: a tight-knit town with the inklings of an effort to attain the common good. I, most likely along with other Turlockers, have been convinced now more than ever that yes, we may have been hurled into trying times. But, by the virtue of our renewed conscience we're embarking on a remarkable reconfiguration, gradually laying a sounder framework of society for future eras and citizens.
- Henna Hundal is a high school student and resident of Turlock. She writes a monthly column on matters related to youth and our society