When I attended the first community meeting for Chapel Hill’s 2020 Comprehensive Plan I looked at the hundreds of people gathered at East Chapel Hill High and thought something along the lines of “We’re all wasting our time.”  And I questioned the savviness of the public spending that backed it.  

     It wasn’t that I disparaged the idea or even the good intentions of the architects of the process.  Simply put, I’ve believed always that the larger the number of people involved, the less likely it is that any sort of decision or consensus can be reached.  And to try to create a plan with hundreds of opinions?  Foolishness.  

     Here it is several months later and I’ve continued to attend as many meetings, presentations, work sessions, etc. as possible and you’re probably wondering why I do, if indeed it is a waste of time.  I’m going to answer by describing my journey from cynical skeptic (skeptical cynic?) to earnest believer.  

     That first night my small group was made up of a true cross-section of those who live, work and play in Chapel Hill.  We talked about ideas and ideals and I left thinking- still- “nice words, but…”  And yet, people came in the hundreds because they care about their town and the group was not dominated by one voice.  I gave credit to the architects of the process for getting so many involved but I still thought that path would lead to stasis. 

     Then the word clouds appeared, culled from that first night’s work.  Who wouldn’t want to live in a safe, lively, sustainable place, I wondered, still thinking that all those nice words couldn’t possibly transform into anything resembling a plan. 

     So, why did I continue to participate?  There’s something awfully seductive about being with people who think the world can be made to be a better place and I started to want to believe them.  

     Then one meeting got a bit more raucous.  Not unpleasant; I’ve seen no examples of less than respectful behavior, but a bit less utopian.  It happened to follow Town Manager Roger Stancil’s presentation on our budget woes but most of my fellow work session attendees did not credit that with the change in the tone.  

     From that point on, the group I’ve joined has attacked and dissected big issues (“big rocks”) in a way that seems to be moving toward an understanding of various points of view and an acknowledgement that give-and-take is the way forward.  

     Believe me, I’m as surprised as anyone!  

     If you’ve not yet participated in the process, please click this link for the calendar.  It is not too late to join in.  

     Please post a comment below or write to me at Donnabeth@Chapelboro.com.  You are free to write about this post but I’d love it also if others shared a time when they were de-cynicism-ed!