It’s the weekend, which means it’s officially O.K. to hit the snooze-button… right? Or maybe you’re more ambitious than most and it’s finally time for that morning ten-mile jog around the lake.
For some, the weekend is meant to be a relaxing break from the work week. For others, the weekend is all about meeting up with friends, running errands and finishing those miscellaneous tasks you didn’t get to Monday through Friday.
Whatever your weekend plans are, don’t forget to notice the background while you’re doing them.
While you’re out jogging, running errands or sitting down to eat this weekend, remember that there’s a marvelous symphony of synchronization all around you, helping you enjoy your night out—that’s your city.
So why not show your city, town or village some love this weekend?
Here are five easy ways to give back to your city this weekend—and beyond.
You probably guessed that volunteering would make it on the list. But the fact is, it’s still one of the most tangible ways to make a difference in your community.
It’s not difficult to find volunteer opportunities. The United Way has a great dashboard of local prospects that play to different strengths. For example—I might not be able to help anyone else out with their taxes, but I know a thing or two about technology and high school literature.
You can also check your city’s website for opportunities specifically catered to your community’s needs.
2) Visit the Local Library
I still remember my first library card. It was blue, from the Town of Falmouth, Massachusetts, and, seeing as Falmouth is a beach town, featured tiny clams and seashells on the front. I think the first book I checked out was about Betsy Ross and the American flag—and thus a lifelong lover of libraries was born.
Libraries are a vital part of the city ecosystem—and not just for their troves of books. Libraries often host neighborhood events that reflect the culture of their community; they give people without the necessary funds access to important cultural conversations and the internet; and they’re often the site of trainings that cater to people of all ages and technical abilities.
And if you need any more convincing, well, they’re usually air conditioned, and in late August, that’s an important quality.
3) Try a New Local Shop, Restaurant or Café
This one’s pretty straightforward. Shopping or eating at a local business puts money in your neighbor’s pocket and supports the local economy. Local businesses often give back to the community through donations, local internships and, of course, career opportunities.
Plus, you might find a new favorite meal or a sweet hat that makes your hair look good. So instead of heading back to your usual haunt, why not try something new?
4) Look up your District Councilmember or Representative
It’s fair to say that as an employee of the National League of Cities, I’m a little biased when it comes to local government. But one of my biggest pet peeves is when people can talk about presidential candidates until they’re blue in the face… but can’t name a single local representative.
If you love your city, you should care about who represents you. Who makes the local policies that impact your kids, your health, your commute and so, so much more?
So much of this information is readily available online, usually on your local government’s website. Plus, candidates and local officials usually have websites or social media pages so you can dive deep into what their policy positions are and what projects they’re working on to make your city, town or village a better place to live (and love).
5) Talk to Your Children About Their Civic Duty
Alright—even I can admit that if you say the words “civic duty” to anyone between the ages of 1 to 99, eyes are liable to glaze over.
But this is really, really important.
Major issues are playing out on the local scale. Every day, local governments are tackling serious challenges like climate change, affordable housing and infrastructure. These issues are multi-generational and require multi-generational attention and solutions.
In fact, some of the challenges mayors and city councils are working on today may affect your children more than they affect you. Raising a generation of civically inclined children can only help us bring more solutions to the table.
Many communities have local youth councils where including youth is a key part of the policy creation process. Elected officials are finding that when they offer meaningful opportunities for youth, more young people participate and get their peers to join in. In states like mine, where young adults are leaving in droves after college, making youth feel connected to their city is critical to retaining and attracting talent.
After all, if you love your city, don’t you want to leave it in good hands?
About the author: Meridith St. Jean is the senior digital content specialist at the National League of Cities.