Sometimes enough is enough
20 Jan 2024 — The Sentinel

I do not make a habit of engaging with negative people on social media, even though I often want to, especially when they are saying derogatory things about our community. It is not because I believe they are right, nor is it because I am afraid of the negative comments I might receive if I voice my opinion. It is because a very insightful mentor once told me, "It is not wise to engage with a bully, they will beat you with experience!" Sage words that I attempt to live by. Isn't that what they really are, bullies? According to Merriam-Webster, a bully is one who is habitually cruel, insulting, or threatening to others who are weaker, smaller, or in some way vulnerable. I believe this definition perfectly describes those who choose to insult and degrade our community all while cowardly hiding behind their electronic devices. Within the safety of their homes, they discredit residents, business owners, organizations, and community leaders with whom they disagree. Often these people being attacked are working hard to make a difference. There are times, however, when enough is enough, and I feel the need to defend and interject. To stand up for our beautiful area and for those working tirelessly to make it prosper. Such has been the case in recent days.

Are we all entitled to our own differing opinions? Of course, we are, but I fear too often these unsubstantiated, negative comments are carelessly hurled into the abyss. As they land, they touch everyone who reads them. Their negative words breed more negativity causing great harm to those who may already be struggling with issues of low self-image, undervaluing themselves and their communities.

How many times have we heard, "Mifflin County is one of the poorest counties in the state of Pennsylvania?" There was a time not long ago when that was true. Hearing that alone could be enough to cause us to hang our heads in shame. I have, however, been searching the internet and found some interesting information. I even made some calls to be sure I was reading the data correctly. As it turns out, we have been referring to 2010 census information. The current 2020 census statistics show that Mifflin and Juniata Counties are not listed anywhere in the top ten poorest counties! In fact, when ranked by median income, we are 29 and 26, respectively, from being the poorest counties in the state, a long way from last. Even when looking at our poverty rate alone we are not in the top ten for the state. (Information found on Stacker who compiled a list of the lowest-earning counties in Pennsylvania using data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Counties are ranked by the Census' 2020, 5-year estimate median household income.) That my friends, is progress. Progress that needs to be recognized and celebrated. Our communities are not digressing, they are advancing and improving.

Would you like more proof? Think about it. Why would major national chains such as Starbucks, Jersey Mikes, Chipotle, and others choose now to come to our area? This is not their first rodeo, they obviously did their homework and realized what many of us have not, that we are a growing community, with great potential. One they are willing to invest in. If they believe in us, why can't we?

My point is this, please don't be fooled by the social media trolls who try to pull us into their "woe is me," gloom and doom mentality, many of which do not even reside in our communities. I realize for many their fond memories of what our area used to be do not compare to what is now, but now is where we are. Be proud of who you are and where you are from and do what you can to keep the improvements and positivity coming.

Perhaps you don't see the part you play in your community as being a monumental one, but please don't underestimate your part. It could be as simple as standing up for your community on social media, volunteering, or even choosing to support your favorite local businesses. Just remember that everyone's part is significant, no matter how large or small it may seem. I like to envision our community as a beautiful tapestry. Its threads may all be different, a rainbow of colors, with knots and tangles, but when woven together, creates a beautiful work of art that is uniquely ours.

Rhonda S. Kelley is the executive director of the Juniata River Valley Chamber of Commerce.

This story is provided free courtesy of The Sentinel.
"Sometimes enough is enough" The Sentinel 20 Jan 2024: A4