Editorial for September 5: Bodden Towners show us the way

It’s not the kind of story that usually makes the headlines: A small group of volunteers banding together to make a difference in their community.

But members of the Bodden Town Historical Committee should be proud and our hat goes off to the group of eight civic-minded individuals whose recent undertakings include beautification efforts at two of the most recognized historic sites in the first capital of the Cayman Islands.

There’s nothing dramatic or particularly spectacular about what the group is doing – removing rubbish, trimming bushes, constructing name tags for places of historic interest. It is simple, honest work to improve the town for locals and visitors alike.

But so many of us complain about the state of our surroundings and so few of us step up and do something about it. Too often, to paraphrase former U.S. President John F. Kennedy, we ask what our country can do for us, not what we can do for our country.
Instead of pointing the finger and asking, “when will they fix this?” the Bodden Town volunteers took ownership of their town and said, “let’s fix this.”

It goes without saying that volunteer cleanup events, often organized by neighborhood associations or civic-minded individuals, not only help keep neighborhoods clean, but are a source of community pride. Cleanups show that people who use an area care about its appearance. Crime is less likely to occur when a neighborhood is clean, well-lighted, and used frequently by residents and tourists.

By reclaiming an abandoned park or playground, eliminating tall weeds and debris from a vacant lot, or sprucing up sidewalks and public spaces along the street, community members will be making the area less attractive to criminals and more attractive to the community.

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It is that sense of collective community responsibility that the Cayman Islands needs to tap into.

In Monday’s editorial we asked readers to look into the “national mirror” and suggested they might not like what they saw reflected there.

The level of rancor in our public debate alongside a rising number of violent crimes suggested a society where selfishness and incivility had encroached upon those more old-fashioned Caymanian values of community and respect.

Don’t just take our word on that; trust the people who have lived through it. In a front-page story last week, some of Cayman’s elder citizens, who have witnessed the vast economic progress of this country, lamented that something valuable may have been lost in the process.

Julia Hydes, who at 104 is Cayman’s oldest resident, remembered: “I lived in an era of great hardship in the Cayman Islands, but never once did I not see food on the table. We were poor, but we looked after one another.” Bodden Town senior Josie Solomon, 82, said: “We cared for each other and everybody shared a little bit of what they had. People do not think about each other [as much]; this is a new Cayman and whatever little bit they have, they would rather throw it away than give it away.”

We confess to a touch of nostalgia, and perhaps naïvety, in the sentiment. But wouldn’t it be nice to believe that those community values still have a role in today’s Cayman Islands? The Bodden Town volunteers, in a small but important measure, have shown us the way.

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