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Heart and Soul

I don’t want us to bowl alone

From the first time we discussed Heart and Soul, I had people with questions as to why we are doing this and wouldn’t it be easier if we just mailed everyone a survey. This is my attempt to explain the “Why.”

I believe that part of Frankenmuth’s dynamic and successful past and present is because we know each other. We come together to identify and fix problems, to develop solutions locally. I think this way of life is at risk if we don’t make an effort to really work at redeveloping and strengthening these relationships. Let me tell you why I think this is important.

I believe that most people who live in Frankenmuth think it’s special.  I do too. I think that when I took this role three years ago, I was given a really unique perspective. I graduated from Frankenmuth. I’ve lived here. My family lives here. I am raising my children here. As a community we are good at coming together when we need to. We are good barn builders. but I think we risk losing this. Historically this sort of community is built on hundreds of little interactions every day. When we would buy our groceries. When we go to church. When we go to the post office or bump into each other paying our water bill.

But we can use SHIPT or click list or amazon prime. You can even pay your water bill on line. The small, incremental ways that we used to interact with people we normally wouldn’t interact with – people that are not within our normal social circles – are disappearing.

I started to really notice what I call “bubbles.”

There’s the Rotary bubble, and the high school athletics bubble, and then there’s travel sports bubbles, and the Jaycee’s bubble. And we are connected to those people we interact with. And sometimes they overlap, but mostly they don’t.

The “bubbles” are a result of the way our world has changed in the past twenty years. And that’s not just my observation.

There’s a book called “Bowling Alone – The collapse and revival of American Community by Dr. Robert Putnam that studies this whole phenomenon.

Dr. Putnam believes that we have become increasing disconnected from neighbors, friends, family and our basic democratic structures. His research points out that this loss of the fabric that has traditionally held our communities together can lead to significant consequences. It’s ironic that we are so connected to each other and yet can have little meaningful interaction. Think for a minute on that – and then consider if you use the “Next Door App”? And know I’m probably going to sound like my mom, bu Back in the “old days” – we didn’t need an app. You know what you did if you wanted your neighbors to know something? You literally walked across the lawn and talked to them.

“Community connectedness is not just about warm, fuzzy tales of civic triumph. In measurable and well documented ways, social capital makes an enormous difference…Social capital makes us smarter, healthier, safer, richer and better able to govern a just and stable democracy.”

– Dr. Putnam, “Bowling Alone.”

Given the age of our residents, new families moving into the community and the cultural changes and pressures that are happening now – I think Frankenmuth will function differently if we don’t take action to reconnect and strengthen those community bonds. I think this community engagement process – if we stick with it – will help us to keep the secret in our secret sauce.

So this is the long answer to “why are we doing this.”

There are four phases to the project – we are in the first one – “Getting Started.” Right now we are focused on making sure that we are providing everyone an opportunity to find out what we are doing, why and how they can have a voice.

If you have questions, feel free to email me. If you’re looking for the book Bowling Alone, it should be available at Wickson Library. Next week I’ll explain why we thought it was important to use the “Heart and Soul” process.

By frankenmuthcm

I am proud to serve as the City Manager for the City of Frankenmuth. I was appointed in October of 2016. Please feel free to email me directly at bsmith@frankenmuthcity.com should you every have questions, comments, etc.

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