Think about someone who has been a role model for you at some point in your life. It may be a parent or a teacher, an older brother or sister, possibly a mentor at work, or maybe someone you never even met, but who inspired you to accomplish something. How might things have been different for you without the influence of that role model?
I firmly believe that something that makes Carpinteria special is that we have more than our share of positive role models – people who generously give their time, their experience, their skills or their money for the benefit of our community.
Just browsing through the Coastal View News or scanning Facebook or Nextdoor presents us with multiple examples of our neighbors going above and beyond what is “required.” Examples are often easy to see in the activities of our wonderful service clubs and amazing volunteer organizations. We are lucky that so many local businesses provide extra service when needed or generously support local causes.
Less visible are the everyday actions of individuals. For every Coastal View News “Halo,” there are many, many other examples of friends and even strangers, modeling what it means to be a “neighbor” by helping someone right when they need it.
We may think of a role model as someone whose entire life or cumulative accomplishments are worthy long-term goals for us. But consider the potential effect of a single small action. When I see someone help an elderly stranger separate a stuck shopping cart from the corral at the supermarket entrance, I am reminded to notice when someone is struggling with something I can easily help with. That simple helpful action will stick with me for more than a moment and provide me an example I can copy.
Now let’s turn things around a bit. Some drivers who see others driving 70 MPH through the freeway construction zone may not be as careful about the 55 MPH speed limit. If multiple people walking down Linden Avenue drop pieces of trash on the sidewalk, some who see that behavior may be less careful about not littering.
Role modeling works both ways. Its effect is part of human nature. It’s how we fit into our community. We tend to norm our behaviors to what we observe around us, whether it is positive or negative.
While we see many positive role models, we also see an unfortunate number of examples that do not help our community, and which, during this time of Covid-19, can directly damage the health of our neighbors.
Unfortunately, negative role models are all too visible, even in the pages of the Coastal View News. For example, just a few weeks ago, illustrating an article about the then upcoming off-leash dog park pilot program at El Carro Park were six photos of dogs off leash at that park, including one photo on the cover of the paper! The pilot program had not even begun when that paper was published. The obvious message was that even though off-leash dogs were not allowed at all yet, and would only be during certain hours once the pilot program started, it seemed to be OK to have off leash dogs there at any time.
Just the other day I saw a Carpinteria Sheriff deputy driving down Via Real with a cell phone to his ear.
This week an employee in a local supermarket was cleaning the meat counter wearing a cloth mask that was not covering his nose.
A father and young son were riding bikes together (great!)… on the sidewalk in front of 7-11… neither with a helmet.
Coastal View News recently reported on the county’s Health Order prohibiting gatherings. Yet in that same edition there were photos of prohibited gatherings, one of a local non-profit doing a litter cleanup and another of a service organization gathering at the beach. The people in each of those photos were within spitting distance of each other and not all from the same household. It would have been easy to have set up each photo such that everyone was in it, but safely physically distanced from one another. The wearing of masks does not eliminate the requirement to maintain six feet distance when that distance is feasible, and posing for a photo for the newspaper does not qualify as making six-foot distancing “not feasible.”
Role models matter. The welfare and health of our community matters. Consider carefully how your actions affect those around you. Our community benefits from positive role models – be one!
Mike Wondolowski is president of the Carpinteria Valley Association (CarpinteriaValleyAssociation.org), a local organization dedicated to maintaining the small beach town nature of our community. In his 30 years of involvement in planning issues, he has witnessed visionary successes, as well as decisions that were later widely regretted. When not stuck indoors, he can often be found enjoying Carpinteria’s treasures including kayaking and snorkeling along the coast, running or hiking on the bluffs or the Franklin Trail, or “vacationing” as a tent camper at the State Beach.