To become a physician, one has to learn how basic science provides a basis for information to be used for the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of human disease. Yes, biology, chemistry and even physics are studied in detail and used throughout our careers as we seek to understand how their principles will be employed over the years at all levels of intervention. Basic sciences can seem to be abstract subjects that are only pertinent for an esoteric use in high school or college to satisfy some graduation requirement. Yet, I would contend that the use of this knowledge can help us learn how to improve our community.
For basic chemical reactions, a simple chemical will combine with another chemical to form a certain compound, and a related reaction can have two chemicals that are altered in the presence of an enzyme to form new compounds. Each of these reactions can reverse themselves in a process called an equilibrium, that is the first reaction could go from two chemicals to a compound and then back again, and the second reaction between more complex chemicals can go back and forth again. And interestingly, the enzyme that might catalyze (“drive”) a reaction is unchanged in the chemical reaction.
Let me relate these latter two points to efforts toward community improvement.
- Efforts by some folks (“simple chemical #1”) can combine with efforts by other folks (“simple chemical #2”) to form an enhanced effort (“new compound”) to improve community projects and improve our communal well-being. We now have a new and improved effort that benefits from citizens working together. But we have to be careful. Without sustained momentum, the improvements could revert back, assuming a state of equilibrium. To overcome the tendency of equilibrium, we have to stay actively engaged.
- More complex efforts can bring together multiple complex or diverse groups and use a catalyst to generate significant change (chemicals that are combined with an enzyme to form a novel compound and the enzyme is unchanged and ready to do the same again). And again, the tendency of equilibrium can occur so active work on our side is always necessary.
Now, chemistry purists will take great exception to my discussion above. I think it is helpful to think about community improvement efforts in multiple ways. I use the analogy of chemistry since when we consider community improvement in terms of chemical interactions it makes us think about how to interact in ways that combine our efforts as citizens. Citizens care for each other. Citizens work on behalf of each other. Citizens consider how they can work together, enhancing and improving what happens for each of us and what happens for our community. I love the analogy of chemistry since it implies that “human chemistry” is the energy that makes us combine our common humanity.
I have previously discussed Five Steps to Community Improvement—learn to be the best parent you can be, get involved, stay involved, love for others and forgiveness. I would like to think that continuing to use the chemistry analogy allows these Five Steps to be considered the chemicals that we all can use to improve the lives of our families and our communities. We need to enhance parenting efforts in our communities with opportunities for recreation, arts, education, sports and resources for parents that might be struggling. Such efforts will require getting involved (to form the chemicals and their subsequent compounds) and staying involved (to keep the “chemical reactions” going and keep the tendency toward equilibrium at bay if needed). Love for others will be the motivating force (the enhanced chemical bonds) that drives us and sustains us as citizens, but forgiveness is the true binding factor (solidifying the chemical bonds) that can be our guiding light. Our ability to practice personal and communal forgiveness are crucial.
I don’t think that it is a stretch to think of community improvement efforts in chemical way. New and enhanced projects can result from the combination of simple projects by individuals or groups. These projects can be further enhanced (with more “reactions”) and allow the chemistry of our humanity to take us to a higher level.