Bonus Civis – “Good Citizen” in Latin. What does it mean to be a good citizen, really? I believe part of our current situation is the decided absence of good citizens, or at least a temporary absence. The hallmarks of a good citizen are many, but a few stand out above the rest, and ironically do not necessarily coincide with being a successful citizen, as we know it. Sure, making a ton of money, driving a nice car and having a big house are great and we should strive for our goals, but I’m not so sure we should elevate those goals above all else. So again, what makes a good citizen?
Neighborly – A good citizen is a good neighbor. Not just to those who live next door, but to everyone they encounter. They are polite, pleasant and respectful. They think about how other people feel, and they try to take that into consideration when making decisions. They are also quick to lend a hand when needed, but do not constantly rely on or require help from others. They look out for their fellow man and wish success on all.
Civic – Civics was once taught in grade school, and it may still be in some places, but it is a very important facet of the good citizen. When I was a kid, I remember that my dad went to several club meetings each month for the Lions Club, the Lodge, and a couple of local clubs as well. He also worked charity events and helped out at things like the local rodeo, even though I’m pretty sure my dad couldn’t ride a horse to save his life. But that didn’t matter because the rodeo was important in our town, so he helped out. Being involved and knowledgeable about what goes on in a community is a cornerstone of being a good citizen, and I know this is where younger generations fall short, myself included.
Principled – This is a difficult attribute to explain and grasp. On the surface, it’s pretty straight forward, but ironically, it’s more nuanced than people give it credit for. Often if you ask someone what their principles are they will give you their opinions or even talking points. However, they miss the underlying reason as to why they have those opinions or listen to those talking points. Knowing your principles and what you stand for is integral to being not only a good citizen, but a good person overall. Without principles it can be hard to know where you stand, and more importantly why you make your stand there in the first place.
Spiritual – A good citizen is spiritual. Not religious, but spiritual. This spirituality is personal and varies, but in the end, it means the same thing. It means that a good citizen knows there is something bigger than themselves. They know that what they do in their lives reflects in eternity. For me, personally, Christianity has guided my decision making and how I view the world, even when no one else is around. It also reminds me that we all come from the same place as human beings, and it helps me to maintain empathy and compassion towards my fellow man. In recent years spirituality has been slowly replaced with humanism and materialism. I am guilty of it, too. But without spirituality everything in life is relative, and it becomes more difficult to maintain the other characteristics on this list. Without spirituality and faith, we are lost. Without it, being a good citizen is often done for the wrong reasons, or it’s done in a wrong way.
Notice that monetary items are not mentioned anywhere above. A good citizen is a hard worker, and a good provider, but without the characteristics above, the success is empty. I’m an accountant by trade, and I’ve looked at the world through dollars and cents since I was in college, so it took me a little while to come to that conclusion, but it’s true. When we get back to being good citizens, we will see the change in this country for the better.