WE call them speed bumps, naysayers and the inspiration for the phrase, “If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.”

They are the people who look for the negative everywhere – and who seem to celebrate anytime they find it.

They are doorstops to progress, and the reason so many people decide not to share their ideas, their potential solutions and their theories on what it will take to effect change.

They are in every community. And they lurk anywhere hope tries to take root.

And more than a tweeting president, a bickering Congress and a whole bunch of people we can’t possibly respect anymore, they are the most dangerous.

They are what stops communities – and nations – from moving forward.

And they are why some people turn off their televisions and stop listening, reading and discussing. They can't take the stress and the negativity anymore.

But we can change that, right here in our own community. We can welcome innovation, brainstorm for possibilities and share ideas. And we can recognize that some of the best ideas just might come from the unlikeliest of places.

All we have to do is keep an open mind.

The Shenango Valley has charted a course for the future, and it is a strong one.

The path that has been set is full of twists and turns, but it is the best way to create a future that will allow generations to look to this community as a great place to raise a family and to build a life.

Now that the wheels are starting to turn and there are big things on our horizon, it is time to put our heads together, to create spaces where people from all walks of life can share in the plans for the future and to listen to one another.

We need more contributions at public meetings, and when there is a call for collaboration, more participation.

We need more public officials held accountable, and more of them really listening to the people who pay their salaries.

We need more transparency and more people interested in the workings of their local, state and federal governments. We need honest and respectful debate.

We need no sacred cows, but we also need to respect our history.

We need more people to join efforts – volunteer and otherwise – to improve the community and to share their experience and their knowledge. We need more people at meetings, on boards and as part of committees. We need support, positive vibes and vision.

It is not about money. It is about giving of yourself to make a difference, whether it is as a volunteer helping your neighbors or as a part of a grassroots effort to address the challenges your community faces.

But most importantly, we need to watch out for the “buzz kills,” or the negative nellies, depending on your generation.

They are the perpetrators of the cacophony of reasons that we should not be looking forward with confidence in our community, in our country and in our possibilities.

They will be the ones who come up with every reason why we can’t move forward, why our past can’t possibly be just that – our past.

If we drown them out, we can do something special here.

And when we do, we can say, “I told you so.” 

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