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A View From The Mesa: How do we avoid doing nothing?

January 26, 2012|By Crissy Brooks

"No seas metiche" is a phrase I often hear in my neighborhood.

In English, we would say, "Don't butt in" or, "Mind your own business."

In general these can be helpful ways of interacting with neighbors. However, I think we take it too far when we fail to listen and use it as an excuse to ignore the issues our city is facing.

I have not always been active in Costa Mesa, yet as I butt into the lives and stories of my neighbors, I am moved to action.

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I have not always spoken at City Council meetings, but as I open my eyes to situations in the city, I am moved to be involved.

While my family and friends are probably tired of my urgings to take action on various issues, some engage because they believe that changes need to be made, and some do it because they care about me. But many do nothing.

I understand doing nothing. I have done nothing many times. I delete the urgent emails calling for action.

Most often I feel that I do not know enough about an issue and that the people who do know and care will take the appropriate action. Doing nothing seems better than being contradictory. My friends who do nothing are not lobbying against us, so they probably feel they aren't hurting the cause.

The problem is that while we are doing nothing, something is happening. City charters are being drafted, neighbors are being laid off.

Pick the issue and decisions are being made that affect us.

As we head into this election year, it's easy to be cynical that nothing will happen to move us to any real change. A friend said earlier Thursday, "The more that changes, the more nothing changes."

No lawmaker will want to take significant action in an election year. The president will do nothing. And yet something is happening in our city.

Decisions are being made to shape the way we are governed every day and most of us are quiet, doing nothing. Doing nothing in 2012 will not be neutral. Nothing results in something, and in the case of the city charter, it will have long-term effects on the shape and future of Costa Mesa.

So what do we do? How do we avoid nothing? How do we be at peace in our city and with our neighbors' pain?

First, we remember that our something is more powerful than nothing. To open our eyes and our ears to the situation is to do something.

What do you know about the charter our council is proposing? Have you read it? What are the motivations pushing this kind of change? These are questions I'm asking myself.

When we know something about the circumstance and care about what happens to the people involved, then what action to take becomes more obvious. And even then, the temptation to do nothing is there.

We can pat ourselves on the back for researching and listening to people and never take any action to change. Sometimes listening is the something. Sometimes we need to make a bazillion phone calls and rally our community and speak up until someone pays attention.

Whatever we do, we have to do something. To do nothing is not nothing. To do nothing is to add to the confusion and brokenness from which we seek to be free.

CRISSY BROOKS is co-founder and executive director of Mika Community Development Corp., a faith-based nonprofit in Costa Mesa, where she lives.

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