A thorough revision of our current Animal Ordinance is on the table and I’m so proud to see the community engaged. Whether you are in favor, opposed or in the middle, I am touched to see so many people use their voice for the voiceless.
One of our values at PETS is compassion and you may think that is a no-brainer but values do not exist within organizations just for public perception. They serve as guides for behavior and choices every day inside and outside of our clinic and they extend well beyond our clients both furry and non-furry. Our values remind us to treat each other with the same compassion and love we would give a pet. Most difficult is to treat ourselves with that same level of compassion.
I would like to challenge our community to do the same. It’s no secret we live in a stagnate city. Wichita Falls has seen NO growth in 60 years. If we want things to stay the same, then we can keep doing what we always have and they certainly will or we can push ourselves, we can have difficult conversations, and we can become something greater, maybe a city people want to stay in after graduation or move to.
We need a LOT of change and change brings out the worst in us sometimes. I have always heard and believed that people don’t like change but is this true? If you stepped out of your front door tomorrow morning and Publisher’s Clearing House was standing there presenting you with $5000 a week for the rest of your life that would be a big change. However, I doubt any of us would grumble about that kind of change.
We need new schools! We need to be more pet-friendly. We need new people in power. We need fresh perspectives and we need voters. But with these potential changes and new opinions comes so much ugliness. Social media is a wonderful resource but we all realize its limitations and it’s propensity towards division. I think we can be better. Let us not be a community divided but a community where differences are welcomed as growth opportunities and communication is respectful and factual.
One of our role models in Animal Welfare, Emancipet, has what they call a guiding principle. It is to “assume noble intent.” How freeing and refreshing is that! Because we know our intentions we judge ourselves with much more leniency than others. After all, we know where our heart was and that even if our actions didn’t have the intended consequences, we meant well. We judge others exactly the opposite. What if we automatically assumed “noble intent?” Would we still choose such harsh words? Would we minimize all the other great qualities and accomplishments of someone because they think differently about one or more topics than us?
The “city” is often viewed as this faceless monster against the people that live here. But the “city” is made up of you and me. The leaders within it are people like you and me. Having seen the truly overwhelming amount of work and research that went in to the Animal Ordinance by the “city”, I have even more respect for the people that take quite a beating publicly because people disagree with one or more things they support or oppose. There is no way to please everyone but there is certainly a way to treat everyone with compassion and respect.
What if we assumed noble intent for our city leaders? What if we approached legislation from a perspective of problem solving? Meaning, we have a very costly and sad pet overpopulation problem that stems from unwanted litters born, the inability to reunite lost and found pets with owners, and a lack of resources for pets to remain with families that love them. Updating a decade old ordinance to better address these issues, saving lives and tax dollars is a noble intention. The city doesn’t go through the arduous process of entertaining legislation because they want more control or they want us to have fewer rights. That’s not noble. These are mostly elected officials. They choose to serve our city and still work full time jobs because they want to make our city better. They want to fix things that are broken and help us grow. That is noble intent.
We can’t keep doing things the same way people. We have to grow and we have to change to do that. Whether the issue is new schools, animals, smoking, housing, etc., I challenge you to exercise compassion in your language and your behavior. Grant each other the assumption of noble intent. Do your OWN research. Spend time thinking about what you would do differently from whatever is proposed and how it addresses the problem. You might discover solutions for big problems often create more problems and what is being proposed is the better choice for the majority. Recognize that from city leaders to community leaders, the people pushing for change are people too. Everyone is someone’s son or daughter, mom or dad.
At an event this week, our Chamber President was celebrated for his handling of the many very personal attacks during the last bond vote. His entire job is to create growth for our community but he was treated with utter disdain by some. He is the father of 6, a husband, a brother, a son, etc. and he moved here to our community to help us. Let there be no high road to take by choosing not to go low as a community.
Leaders, be brave. You were chosen for a reason. Do not be influenced by fear and outrage. Make decisions based on what is factual and in our best interest as a community not on what makes people happiest. What’s right and what is popular are often two very different things. Speak up and speak out. Communicate. Stay Authentic!
This last sentence gets me most. For 12 years, I have poured my heart and soul into Animal Welfare in the form of PETS Clinic. Our success is indisputable. My support of the current revisions to the Animal Ordinance in no way diminishes what we have accomplished and continue to do but there is always a part of me that hesitates. I worry about donors, community support, small town politics and much more. I worry how my choices could negatively impact the organization I built. Then I remember that it was my heart and the courage to follow it that got us this far. I remember the animals I represent do not have a voice and I know that I have more information than some and it greatly influences my thoughts and feelings. I hope sharing that information eases minds but being anything less than true to myself is a recipe for disaster.
In closing, I treasure our diversity. I love that we care enough about issues to feel them and be emotional about them. I ask that we care as much about each other as we do our opinions. Practice compassion and noble intent. Let’s be positive, compassionate stewards of change! Our community needs. Our children deserve role models and to learn that they can make a difference.