Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Bridge Columbia: Trick or Treat?

We are continuing to read about the proposed Bridge Columbia project in the newspaper and see it discussed in local blogs and on Facebook because of the grit and determination of The Friends of Bridge Columbia. I am excited to see them keep this idea moving forward. Any big change takes continued forward motion and persistent outreach to the community.

In following the Bridge Columbia discussion this past week between The 53 Blog and Columbia Compass, I had a vision. Imagine, if you will, that Columbia and Howard County residents are symbolized by the trick-or-treaters in the classic Peanuts Halloween special, "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!"

Let's get in the mood, shall we?

At each house, handfuls of candy are thrown into the bags of the children. Imagine that these treats are pieces of information about Bridge Columbia. All of our trick-or-treaters get something different: "I got an iconic local landmark!" "I got a pedestrian/biking/transit bridge!" "I got a connection from the Hospital and HCC to Blandair Park!" Everyone gets something. Well, not everyone. What about Charlie Brown? As the others watch their bags fill up with loot, he laments,"I got a rock."

In my HoCoLocal version I see a few folks who seem to come away with something similarly unexpected.

After each presentation, each article, each blog post and conversation,
they look into their bags and say,

"I'm not convinced."

This is not to single anyone out for criticism. For example, Bill Santos, a blogger for whom I have the utmost respect and whose views are always well informed, has reservations about this project. And he has gone out of his way to contribute to civil discourse, something all communities and all progress require. And I'm grateful for that. The Charlie Brown character, then, is useful here in illustrating how members of a community can engage in identical activities and events but emerge with differing experiences and opinions.

Supporters of Bridge Columbia, and I am one, have to give some serious thought to our friends and neighbors who are not convinced. This does not mean that they are to be mowed down with snark, nor should we see their opposition as a reason to give up.

Bill Woodcock's post, "Uniting Two Columbias", was a very healthy response to our dilemma, in my opinion. He added another thread to the discussion as he talked about how developing shared interests can foster a sense of community. Columbia won't survive without both. And Bridge Columbia can be a vital ingredient in the mix.

In the Halloween TV special, the other children don't care what Charlie Brown gets or doesn't get in his bag. Their trick-or-treating success and their enjoyment of the holiday are completely unaffected by his failure. They don't care and they don't have to.

But we must care. The effort to identify and nurture common interests between villages begins anew with every discussion of Bridge Columbia, one on one, neighbor to neighbor. Whether over cocktails, or coffee, on Facebook, or at a County Council hearing, we have the chance to listen, learn, and speak our minds with sincerity.

A healthy, vibrant Columbia in a successful, dynamic Howard County requires this of us: our best effort.

"I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving." --Oliver Wendell Holmes



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