Editor’s Note: This is one in a series of columns written by community leaders addressing issues they believe need attention and action in the new year and decade.

‘My Vision for 2020”… this document sat blank on my computer screen as I opened and closed and opened and closed it over the last few weeks. It’s not because I lack the words. Anyone who knows me will tell you that even when I say I’m speechless, I always have something to say.

Rather, it’s because there are so many topics I can discuss — transportation, substance use disorder, early childhood education.

But with the myriad of things happening in this world, our country, our Valley and my life, my head is swimming with thoughts of something I’ve thought about a lot since the Bridges Out of Poverty Training a few weeks ago.

Especially how much our future story depends on each other.

What keeps popping up repeatedly as I have rolled this over in my mind, day and night, is that we have spent so many hours over the last few years debating, fighting, planning.

It’s past time to heal and begin our move forward.

Healing and progress will require us not only to work together but to do that hard work on ourselves that we often struggle to acknowledge needs to be done. Only doing so will help pave the way for a brighter future story. Sometimes that work is simpler than you think.

It involves getting back to some basic things that make us decent and happier human beings:

n Start each day with a selfless act that brings someone else joy and end it with something that brings you joy. You may eventually find out that they’re the same thing. And if they’re not? So what. You’ll feel better and so will they.

n Talk regularly to someone who is not like you, and by “talk,” I mean have a real, live conversation. Maybe they have a different political affiliation or skin color or gender. Or maybe it’s their eye or hair color that is different. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you actively listen to their story. Don’t prepare to respond while they’re talking, just listen. Everyone has a story, and every single story is valid and valuable.

n Lay off the police, journalists, refs, coaches, food service workers, school boards, social workers, teachers ... the endless list of all the people who do those truly thankless jobs. We need them desperately, and so do our kids. They don’t do what they do for the money, trust me. It’s up to us to help inspire them to keep showing up every single day. Let’s all strive overall to be more objective and empathetic.

n Share something every day for the good of humanity, just because. Maybe it’s putting an extra quarter in the meter for the next car, a random fact floated out on social media, important and potentially life-altering advice or even just half of a candy bar. Whatever it is, just have the courage to share it. You may never know your impact.

All of this may seem oversimplified and even hokey — what does it all really mean?

My Vision for 2020 and our collective brighter future story is that every single person in this community will know they matter.

They will know they have at least one person, even if it’s a total stranger who says hello on the way to work, who cares that they simply show up for life every day.

When we know we matter, the rest will take care of itself.

Kids will show up to school, adults will show up to work, people will volunteer and participate and vote and be inspired.

Then and only then will we truly get stuff done.

Joanne Troutman is the president and CEO of the Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way.

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