We value the sense of sight and have a great fear of losing it. However, for many of us, we are already becoming blind, but don’t even know or recognize it.
“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.” — Helen Keller
The longer we live in the same place the narrower our vision becomes. Every day we take the same route to work. We meet with the same people each month. Over time our mind starts to play a game with us. Details of the world immediately around us start to fade. The elements (often the negative elements) that a newcomer sees soon become invisible or cloud over. They disappear from our sight and minds. Sometimes we even lose focus of the positive elements of our community.
When we travel to new communities our vision quickly comes back, and we look at those places and see both the good and the bad. We immediately evaluate those areas and form an opinion based on our first impression. In some cases it is positive because we like what we see. In other cases the negatives — poor maintenance, unpainted buildings and facilities, public nuisances, fences that need repair, signs that are old and outdated, litter and debris — are images that give us a poor impression of the area.
One way to cure us of our blindness is to have a stranger from outside the area come take a look at our community. Their fresh look at the place we see every day can help us gain a new insight into what we need to do to make it attractive and appealing.
Some communities in Keep Iowa Beautiful’s Hometown Pride program invite a committee or small group from one community to trade places with a group from another community. They use a set of guidelines and evaluate each other’s communities, pro and con, so the information is comparable and the evaluations are standardized.
This open and objective exchange of information can serve as a guide for community planning to improve the appearance of their community. It can counter the terrible effects of blindness. The formal name for the process is called the “First Impressions Evaluation” and was developed by the University of Wisconsin.
The exchange provides fresh eyes, with a clear vision, to help evaluate the image of your community. The exchange group sees things we have tended to overlook. The evaluations are provided back to the host community. It helps to give them a check list of items the community residents need to work on. These become key elements in improving or enhancing the host community.
Prevent blindness and take a new look at your community.
Information provided by Gerry Schnepf, Keep Iowa Beautiful.