Mayor Calderone came to our Cub Scout meeting last Friday night. Not only were we honored and grateful that he took the time to be with us, I was honored to be associated with Forest Park Cub Scouts and their families. It renewed my hope and appreciation for our hometown.

The Webelos, the fourth- and fifth-grade Cub Scouts, are working on their requirement, “Building a Better World.” This includes learning the history of the American flag, rights and duties as a citizen, what “rule of law” means, learning about energy usage at home and in the world, and managing a budget. It also requires meeting with a government leader.

The mayor came to our den meeting to share information about government. He asked the boys what some of the rules and laws were for citizens in our community. The boys shared that good citizens do not loiter, do not litter, always say “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me,” and they always pick up after their dog and put the droppings in the garbage.

The mayor went on to explain that there are federal laws, state laws, and Forest Park laws. It is important for citizens to follow the laws to be able to live in a safe and healthy way. Historically, some of our laws have needed to be changed. When one needs to be changed, he said, citizens can talk to their elected officials or petition for change. 

He went on to share that information heard or written sometimes is not accurate. Citizens have critical-thinking skills, which is why there are many ways to get information. The boys said that in school teachers are always asking questions and encouraging them to discuss and share. Trust and understanding comes from experience, reputation and relationships. When people, especially people in government, communicate, that makes it easy to understand their point of view. When they are silent, it encourages misinformation, speculation and mistrust. 

We talked about how we are each responsible for making good choices, being kind, helping neighbors and being involved in the community. The boys went around the table and shared how their moms or dads volunteered to help run Little League, the Parent-Teacher Organizations, the dance studio they dance at, the high school, multicultural education programs, serving lunch at school, girls softball, the Historical Society and at schools in neighboring communities where their parents work. In our little group of scouts, thousands of lives are being touched by the amazing families who are involved.

After our meeting, one of our leaders, Kevin, and his son, Carter, stopped at Walgreens to get a bottle of Coke for his mom. When they walked up to the store there was a woman who seemed disadvantaged and asked them for spare change. 

Something was different about this interaction, and it meant something to Carter. He asked his dad if they could get her some food because “everyone should have something to eat.”

Kevin was touched by his son’s compassion, and perhaps his heart was softened after co-leading a civic lesson with the scouts in his den, so he agreed. Carter said, “We should get her some Gatorade, apple sauce and Doritos.” He went straight to the aisles, picked out the food and drink and didn’t ask for anything for himself.

They paid for the items and had them bagged separately from the Coke. When they walked out of the store, Carter walked up to the woman and handed her the bag. 

The woman instantly broke down weeping with gratitude.

There are thousands of kind acts and deeds happening all around us in Forest Park and in our neighboring communities. Each single act can build up or tear down the foundations of our community. Thank you to my friends and neighbors who have had the patience and perseverance to build one another up, even in challenging times. I appreciate you and your courageous contributions.

I am proud of my friends in town who easily say “hello,” “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me.” It reflects your honesty and good values. Thank you to my friends who promote other people, promote businesses that are not their own, discuss and communicate respectfully, and look for ways to help our community be less divided rather than more divided. 

I encourage our village commissioners and mayor to ask their friends and family to do the same. In addition, our elected officials can choose to lead brave discussions and become members of, or support, good civic activities that build up our town. Your friends and family are a reflection of you, your thoughts and your values.

Thank you for those who have been willing to engage, willing to be kind, willing to promote good, and willing to be a good neighbor. Your actions, however small, however unappreciated, unpopular or unnoticed, are the seeds to “Building a Better World” right here in Forest Park.