Fair warning: we’re on a tear about DIY -- that’s do-it-yourself -- projects. Not the kind that involve photos on Facebook or Pinterest or Instagram, but that’s a good place to start. We’ll get to the rural revitalization part in a minute… just bear with us.
First, let’s start with the DIY stuff. You’ve seen them -- the super cute photos of craft projects, cable reel furniture, pallet reclamation projects, and other items that take “just a few little bits and scrap pieces” to make an oh-so-fashionable can’t-live-without-it item for the home, yard, or garden. Some are legitimately easy, and truly do use a small number of things found in the average garage and/or junk drawer. Others take a degree in rocket science, quantum physics, or both.
The latter projects always remind us of the signs found hanging among items offered for sale at craft fairs. It never fails. Just about the time we’re thinking, “Hmmmm… I could do that…,” there’s a neatly framed, creatively stenciled, needlepointed, or embroidered sign that reads, “Sure you can. But will you?”
And, if we will, are we truly up to the task? We’re pretty good hands with a lot of stuff. We’re both self-reliant women who are equally at home with power tools, good old-fashioned hand tools like hammers, saws, and t-post drivers, and multiple forms of technology. Plus we know our ways around sewing machines, glue guns, and all sorts of other stuff we used to call home economics.
But there are also things we just don’t excel at. And the most important fact about that? We KNOW it.
We know the value of using not only the right tools, but also making sure we work with people who know their business. If we don’t have the knowledge, experience, or skills, we work with someone who does.
Compare rural revitalization with the old joke about a trip to the hardware store for parts. We’ll make the long story short -- the one trip becomes several, because the homeowner convinced himself -- or herself -- he could do it himself. And, if he’s having a really bad day, the multiple trips to the hardware store become a call to a professional plumber. Ouch.
We’re not saying rural communities can’t spearhead their own revitalization efforts. But do encourage people to: 1) do the research, and 2) evaluate what can realistically be done by community members vs. what projects require skilled, experienced help.
How many rural cities decide on a whim to grab a backhoe and dig up the sewer main that’s causing problems? Or get a group together Saturday afternoon to repair the curbs and gutters near the Jenkins’ place? Sure, they may hire local when they can, but that’s the point -- they hire someone who knows the business to get the job done right. The first time.
Rural revitalization is just as important as water, sewer, and streets. Not just anyone can do it right. And, just like the failed plumbing repairs, the more tries you make at it, the more expensive it gets.
True revitalization means figuring out what a community has and what makes it tick, then building on the quality of life that’s already there. It means change in some degree -- change for the better.
There are plenty of experts who love rural and know how to do revitalization right. Are you ready?