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How we treat outsiders reflects our sense of community

The news of the Chinese balloon, along with subsequent other “unidentified aerial phenomena” (the new name for UFOs) being shot down out of North American skies enthralled the nation for the past few weeks. Some have worried about the escalation of potential conflict between superpowers, while others are wondering just what these things are.

Asked during a news conference whether he had ruled out extraterrestrial origins, Gen. Glen D. VanHerck, the commander of the Air Force’s Northern Command, said, “I haven’t ruled out anything at this point.” Say no more. The conspiracy theorists jumped in with all three feet and both heads, and concluded this was tied to Area 51 and we were being invaded … again.

This news came on the heels of me watching “War of the Worlds” with my foster grandson, and the barrage of questions his inquisitive mind asked. “So … what if we did get invaded by extraterrestrials?” My mind went directly to how we might treat them, and what would they think of us?

I think that same question can and should be asked whether our visitors are from outer space, another country or even the next community over. Are we welcoming? How do we talk about our town or city to new visitors? It’s so easy to default to defense … they’re here to take over my planet, or take my job. Likewise, how would visitors feel about our communities if they stopped by the local coffee shop to hear the regulars talk?

I thought of a luncheon I recently had with a new CEO who had come to town. He shared with me, “I love this community. It is so welcoming, and so much to do.” Wait, what? It reminded me why I love this place, too. With his fresh eyes seeing everything, it was a good reminder of all that’s good in our area.

Those of us in this business of community development and philanthropy tend to put so much of our focus on all that is wrong and don’t reflect enough on the positive. There are lots of things to love here, and he seemed to be welcomed with open arms and open minds on all that is right. I needed that.

And after those ruminations continued, I was again prodded by the question from the newest member of our family. “Yes sir,” I finally answered. “They probably will be green.”

Brian Fogle is the President and CEO of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks.

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