|Image courtesy of Bill Wilson|
Are we obligated to make our community better simply by being a resident of the community? Am I obligated to make the community I live in better just because I live there? Are my obligations covered simply by paying taxes and keeping my house and yard up? Do I owe anything to anyone in my community? The answers to these questions determines the quality of life in your town.
I wrestle with these questions as I make my way around town. And then one day I ran into Bill Wilson hiking a trail in Tower Park. He’s a stout man pushing 70. He wore cloth work gloves and carried a small pruning saw. His sturdy work shoes revealed lots of wear. He is a man not made for sitting.
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I greeted him and he replied. We chatted about the weather and the trail. And then I asked about the saw. And that’s when the story unfolded.
Every day for the past 8 years, Bill has walked the trails. He trims, cleans, and places or replaces stones along the paths. He wants them nice for hikers and bikers. He’s a quiet man and you could easily miss him but this chance encounter proved interesting.
We got to chatting about his maintaining the trials. I asked if we have a responsibility to the community in which we live. Wilson told me that, “I have always been motivated to make things better. When I see something that can be improved and I have the tools and know-how to make it better I get great joy out of doing that. I think every person has different God-given talents that we have a responsibility to use because when we do so it will positively impact the greater community.”
Wilson did not grow up in Fort Thomas. He says, “I was raised in Pierce Township, Ohio. I grew up with my four sisters in a house that had no indoor plumbing until I was 14. My mother cooked on a wood stove. We did have electricity! I spent many summers staying with my grandmother in Hyde Park.”
He moved to Fort Thomas after he married to raise their family. “We have two children, Sarah and Eric. Sarah lives in Ft. Wayne, Indiana with her husband Isaac and their children Janna and Simon. Eric lives in LaGrange, Kentucky with his wife Rachel and their children Addy and Kate…. We are grateful for all the special places and people in Ft. Thomas that played a role in making our kids the people they are today.”
Wilson reflects, “I have walked these trails almost every day for 8 years. The maintaining of the trails started due to me seeing things that would make hikes easier and safer if I fixed them. I bring a small saw with me to clear smaller fallen branches from the paths and I add rocks to muddy areas to make the paths easier for everyone to navigate. As I hike the trails, it is good to see that the rocks are mostly still in place. Over the years, trees have fallen, trails have started falling over the edge, and the growth of honeysuckle keeps getting worse. I have tried to move logs to the edge of trails to stop the slippage where possible and constantly cut down honeysuckle. Overall the trails remain a peaceful place to hike.” Bill Wilson saw a need and he filled it. And if you have ever hiked the Tower Park trails then you should appreciate his effort. But here’s the thing, he doesn’t see this as any big deal. It’s just a thing that he does. He wants his community to be better and this is how he contributes.
|Sawed honeysuckle along a trail.|
Wilson says, “I have met so many people and families on this trail, many from out of town, that enjoy these trails. There seem to be more people using the trails. My motivation is for these people as well as myself to enjoy the trails. So many people thank me for doing this that it has been fuel for me to do more. When you retire, you miss the sense of accomplishment you used to feel. Helping maintain the trails has helped fill that hole.” And he should feel good about his accomplishments.
Shortly after we finished our trail conversation, some young cyclists rode by on the path and I’m sure they passed Bill. Did they know Bill fixed their paths? Maybe. Maybe not. Bill knows and that’s all that matters.
We have a responsibility to make our community better in whatever way we can. We shouldn’t wait to be asked. If you see the need, then take action. Don’t make someone else do it for you. That’s lazy.
People who make things happen have passion, vision, and, even though they may not have time, they find time. So here’s the lesson - get involved. Meet others. Learn from each other. Help each other. Creating a good strong community is like raising a child - we want to protect yet allow for growth with hopes that when we are gone our vision and influence lives on.
And that is our obligation.