By: Staff Reports | Gwinnett Citizen
Carole Townsend

(Not So) Common Sense
The measure of a community’s greatness lies not in its wealth, but in its heart.
By Carole Townsend

Gwinnett County has grown to be a large and sprawling metropolitan county. I believe I heard it said a couple of weeks ago that Gwinnett is now the most diverse county in the nation, certainly in the state. 

The sixteen cities in Gwinnett each have their own personalities; if you have ever spent time in any of them, you understand what I mean. Some are bustling and busy. Some are laid back and homey. Some are known for their political grappling, while others are known for their progressive, eco-friendly consciences.

No matter the city’s persona, its population or its reputation, I believe that there is one measure, and one only, that defines the greatness of that city. It’s not the general fund. It’s not the infrastructure. It’s not the theater, or the mayor, or the monuments.

It’s how well that city takes care of those who are truly in need.

I have been humbled in the past couple of weeks, to have had the good fortune to see first-hand the overwhelming compassion and selflessness of which people are capable. Gwinnett people. Residents, business owners, pastors, church members, you name it; I have seen them come together, roll up their sleeves, and give of their time, money and resources to people who are just like them. People just like them who, through circumstances completely beyond their control, now find themselves in need of help. People who, if the tables were turned, would be the first in line to help those who are helping them.

I have learned in my lifetime (mostly in the past 20 years, and mostly because my husband and my faith have taught me) that the best cure for what ails you – self pity, depression, sadness, dissatisfaction – whatever it is, the best cure is extending a helping hand to someone else. As crazy as that sounds, it’s true. The mere act of helping someone takes our mind off of our own troubles. It helps us put things in perspective.

Last week, I watched Dacula residents and area business owners pitch in for the Martinez family, completely remodeling their home to accommodate Cindy’s homecoming from the hospital. I was in awe, literally, at the scope of work, at the number of people, who were on site, happy to work and sweat side-by-side with complete strangers for the good of a young family.

I am seeing too, the giving nature of the Grayson community and surrounding areas, all to help a Grayson woman who has done so much to help others over the years. Michelle Couch, recently diagnosed with a serious illness, is not used to being the one who needs the assistance. That’s O.K., because she didn’t have to ask. Proceeds from a Saturday bake sale at Hail Mary Sports Pub will go to Michelle in her time of need. Cash donations made to a bank account established for Michelle will go to her. An account has been established on Mealtrain.com, so that friends and friends of friends can provide meals for her family while she receives treatment and heals.

And people are signing up right and left to help, both Michelle and the Martinez family. Why is that? In a world that makes so many demands on our time and energy, why would people slow down and take the time to be kind to someone else? I believe it’s because, by doing so, we feel real worth. We feel value. We feel that we are making a difference that matters. And of course, when we show kindness to someone else, we are making a difference.

Find a way to get connected in your community, whether through church or city government meetings, or even volunteering at a school. Get plugged in, and for selfish reasons, find out who truly needs help, and help them. You won’t regret it.

“To give up yourself without regret is the greatest charity.” 
–Bodhidharma, Indian leader and teacher

Carole Townsend is a Gwinnett author and freelance writer. She writes about family, from both a humorous and poignant perspective. Her newest book, MAGNOLIAS, SWEET TEA AND EXHAUST (July 2014, Skyhorse Publishing) takes a look at NASCAR from a Southern suburban mom’s perspective. She is currently writing her fourth book. Carole has appeared on local and national news and talk shows, including CNN, ABC, CBS and NBC affiliates. When not writing, she travels throughout the region, speaking to various civic and literary groups, and advocating for the health and well-being of the family, particularly women and children. For more information, visit www.caroletownsend.com.