Three of the four candidates were there (the fourth couldn’t attend due to a health issue). Although I have covered numerous candidate forums in my career, it was the first time I’ve been invited to be one of the questioners on a panel. It was a great experience and in the two hours I was there I learned a lot about the community and the people.
One of the issues that came up had to do with improving the quality of life. I asked the candidates what they thought made a good quality of life and how they would improve it for Stafford residents. The candidates gave some pretty stock answers about having good recreation, arts and entertainment venues, a safe and secure community in which to live, good roads, etc.
They all gave good and reasonably similar answers. It got me thinking, however, about what constitutes a good quality of life. Why stop at good? What would it take to make a good life a great one?
The quality of one’s life begins with the individual. We are all responsible for our own happiness and no one should rely on the government to provide it. Now, that being said, there are aspects of quality living that government does control. Government provides for schools, roads, community planning, police and fire protection and other communal services. Those things are all important to the quality of life within a particular community. It is the management of such things that make cities great and other cities, well, not so great.
When it comes to cities in our area, Sugar Land puts the quality in the quality of life. From things like Town Square and Constellation Field to the new theater and parks, the city has planned and built first class amenities and facilities. It has been purposeful in turning Sugar Land into a destination city rather than a bedroom community for Houston.
Stafford, from what I understand, is content to being a bedroom community and that is fine if that’s what its citizens want. There is nothing wrong with that. Cities, like people, can be whatever they want to be. If everyone and every place were the same, we’d live very boring lives. Things that appeal to some people are distasteful to others. Personally, I’m a country boy. My wife and I each grew up on small hobby farms and we enjoy open spaces and working with farm animals. City life is too constrained and noisy for us.
My younger sons, however, have only known city life and they’re comfortable being close to friends and the various attractions cities have such as shopping, dining and entertainment. The thought of having to weed a garden, feed animals and muck stalls does not appeal to them in the least bit. I had the privilege of eating food my family raised and grew ourselves. Other than some eggs, fish and a few vegetables, my kids haven’t tasted anything fresher than stuff from a grocery store.
To me, fresh food versus store-bought food is a quality of life issue. So is a quiet, rural setting versus a busy, urban environment. I think that’s probably why I don’t like the quality of life in the city where we live. We live on a busy street and I don’t find that comforting. In fact, I find it disturbing, but that’s probably just me.
Like I said earlier, the quality of one’s life is up to the individual. I may not like where I live, but I have control over that, so we’re moving this summer (and before you real estate types think about contacting me, just don’t – please!). I have a great wife and kids, a good marriage, a job that I love, hobbies I enjoy and a fantastic church that we belong to. Those are quality of life matters that keep me going every day. These are things that government cannot give nor take away.
More important to the quality of life is your attitude. You cannot control what happens to you in life but you can control how you respond to it. If you don’t like your job you can change jobs or change your attitude about your job. If you are unhappy with your spouse, don’t change spouses, find out what makes your mate happy and pursue that relentlessly. Investing in your spouse, your children and most anyone you have a relationship with not only helps you feel better but it brings a substantial return on investment. People will treat you the way you treat them.
Think about it for a minute. What types of people do you like being around? Do you like being with people who are happy and say and do nice things or people who are glum and are always in need of something? Now ask yourself which of those types of people you are. Are you the kind of person who brightens a room by walking into or out of it? Are people happy to see you coming or going? Are you quick to get angry? Do you hold grudges? Do you complain and gossip? Do you enjoy being around people like that?
Perhaps you’re quick to forgive and let things roll off your back. Maybe you have the ability to look at life from the perspective of others and can appreciate that they may be going through a difficulty you know nothing about. A smile and a kind word say more about you and your quality of life than the things you own or the nice house you live in.
One of the great things about living in a free country is the ability to control our quality of life. If government becomes an impediment to your happiness, you’ve got the ability to change your leadership or relocate. On May 6 municipal and school district voters in our area have the chance to select leaders who will impact the quality of life in your city. Take advantage of this to get to know the candidates and the issues and make the best choice you can.
I didn’t have to sit on a panel to learn these things but it did show me how well the candidates in Stafford grasp some of these concepts. Now it’s up to the voters. They can either take action, watch what happens or wonder what happened. Personally, I like being in the driver’s seat on Election Day. My vote counts. Does yours? It doesn’t if you don’t use it; so get out and vote.