Facing Franklin on a regular basis

Published 12:33 am Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Ever since I have lived here, I often get this question posed to me: “Why did you come to Franklin?”

My standard answer to that question is, “Why do you live here?” And if the person posing the question is not from Franklin, my response is: “Why don’t you know about Franklin? If you did, you would not ask the question.”

It is not important why my family came to Franklin; rather, what it is important is what we found in Franklin. So let me paint a picture of Franklin to you through the eyes of a stranger who has developed into an old resident of Franklin.

The faces of Franklin to me may be different than the Franklin that you see, and maybe my picture will open your eyes to the community you are fortunate enough to live in. Maybe my picture will give you the energy to give additional support to this wonderful community.

The faces of Franklin to me are reflected through the contacts I see on a regular basis. I see Franklin in the faces of the members of my church. In those faces, I see caring people, active in the community, active in church, who take time to ask how you are, who give you a kind, gentle handshake, and who have a way of making you know without saying very much that they are there for you.

I see Franklin in the faces of people who pass me on the street and whom I pass in casual places such as the grocery store, who smile and say “hello” and don’t just pass you by and not acknowledge that you even exist. Franklin is full of genuine, kind, warm people.

But I also see the face of Franklin when I pass kids on the street in the summer just hanging out — kids who are rather aimless, have time on their hands and are full of nothing constructive to do. Those kids are colorless, aimless and asking for help. They are also too many in number. Franklin needs to offer them a hand year-round.

I can’t miss the face of Franklin when I see seniors. Franklin has a mix of senior faces. Some are spry (like me), some are in need of assistance, while others are active and they volunteer; they help others and are themselves ageless. No matter what those faces reflect, this community gives them respect, and when they are on the streets of Franklin, someone offers them a smile or help.

I grow concerned when I see the faces of Franklin that are reflected in the mirrors of security cameras. Some of the reflections are hard to miss when you shop at places like Wal-Mart and you go into the parking lot and the cameras follow you. Those face reflections can at best remind you that you must be cautious and watch your surroundings. They also say to you that the days are gone when intrusions into your privacy did not occur.

Society has changed, and so has Franklin. You can no longer just leave doors open and never locked. You can’t walk through a parking lot and not be mindful of your surroundings. And, yes, when you read The Tidewater News and the headlines say “Three shot,” it is Franklin. These faces’ reflections must alert all of us to take steps to return our places to the safe places they once were — and to remember no one person, no one group, no one institution, nor single police department can do that alone.

As I have heard from a person who has come in recent months to be one of the most respected colleagues I have had in my career, a person who has so willingly helped me adjust to my City Hall life, and a person who was one of those first church faces I saw, “June, it takes the village people.” Yes, the village people must act together to make what you want this city to be and to reflect the faces that make it the community you deserve.

I must weave in the face of a participatory, volunteer-oriented citizen. When I see the face of this person, it is manifested over and over again, day in and day out, time and time again. I see this face of Franklin as ageless, as neither male nor female, and I see it as a face of courage and strength. It is the face of one who cares about this city — what it is and what it will be. This face of Franklin sees how this city is willing to accept us all for what we are and for what we can be — a city with pride in itself and its residents and, most of all, a place that allows us to make a difference and is willing to let us individually make a difference.

It is that face that encourages people to volunteer in any capacity if you are willing. Volunteers are important and they are alive and well in Franklin. I have this wonderful opportunity to be a philanthropist with no money. All I have to give is myself and my experience. I am able to serve this city in the one capacity where some assistance is needed and by doing the thing I love to do.

I am a committed, true believer in city government and, more specifically, the city-manager form of government. I am blessed to be able to share the little I know and give the small amount I can to bridge the gap between permanent city managers.

I sincerely enjoy the faces I meet, and the faces I meet reinforce that my family’s move to Franklin was one of the best decisions we have made.