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October 25, 2006 | South Carolina Headlines


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Community Awareness
Jonathan Pait
May 28, 2001

The sun sets in a partly cloudy sky making the horizon appear as a sea with waves of flame. As you crest a hill the skyline of downtown Greenville rises from the lush green of the trees. The concrete and glass glows reflecting the hues surrounding the architecture. At times like this it is easy to agree with the recent title given to our fair city-the jewel of the Upstate.

I have the pleasure to take in this canvas returning home from work. The stop light at the crest of the above mentioned hill gives me time to reflect as I await a break in the traffic to make a left turn onto the street where I have now lived for nearly six years. I leave the scene of a growing downtown and descend into a wonderful neighborhood where neighbors talk while pulling crabgrass.

I love my neighborhood. It isn't perfect, but I wouldn't want to live anywhere else in Greenville. Huge water oaks and various hues of dogwoods line the street that runs between Wade Hampton Boulevard and East North Street. Most of the houses built on modest lots were constructed in the late 40's and early 50's. As you turn onto the street from East North Street the asphalt seems to disappear into a forested valley.

It is a rather steep hill that gives this illusion. From the top of the hill you are actually above the water oaks that provide that wonderful shade. It is also this hill and the corresponding hill on the Wade Hampton side of the street that brings about the one major negative of my neighborhood: the speeding that takes place.

The speed limit on our street is 30 mph. Recently, a Greenville City policeman used radar to track the speeds. He pulled over those who exceeded the limit. He was actually very merciful. He pulled over only those who exceeded 42 mph. During the evening that I took the time to watch, he pulled over numerous speeders within an hour.

I can understand how easy it is to exceed the 30 mph limit. Once while at the top of the hill I put my car in neutral and released my brake. Simply coasting brought me to a speed of 35 mph. Unless you gear down or brake, you can easily exceed the limit. However, what concerns me are the times while playing with my children on the front lawn that we hear drivers accelerating down the hill.

Recently a runner was clipped by one of these drivers (a regular I might add-these speeders are not normally one-time offenders). As the runner was thrown into the grass of a nearby lawn the driver kept right on going. Several hours later here she came again from the opposite direction. A witness of the incident was able to point her out to the police and she was apprehended.

"So, what's your point?" you may say. No, it is not to jump on those speeders. It is draw attention to our need to live responsibly in our neighborhoods and extended community. Sure, I feel like putting spikes out on the road when I hear that engine racing. However, I began to notice that in other neighborhoods similar to mine I did not pay attention to my own speeds.

When I did start paying attention, I realized that I could not stand in judgement of those who misused our street when I myself did not use their neighborhood's access with regard to those living there. Now, I make it a point as I drive around Greenville's wonderful neighborhoods, to think of my neighbors who live there and drive accordingly. The concept is old but no less applicable. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

If we would take this attitude and live with regards to those surrounding us and not focus only on our needs and interests, there would be no need for speed bumps and traffic circles. Come to think of it, many of the regulations and restrictions that we often chaff under would not exist.

As Americans and Greenvillians we should value our freedom. However, we can best preserve our freedom by practicing personal responsibility. Yes, at times we should even self-limit our freedoms. This is almost a foreign concept in our country today. We declare, "I should be able to do anything that I want to do." However, a community is best served by a member who recognizes that while he or she has every right to do a certain thing, it is not always best for the whole.

I will also be the first to say that "the whole" should also be willing to allow for variations in conduct where the law is not violated. While I should be concerned about speeders breaking the law in my neighborhood, I should be willing to show deference to those who use my street as a shortcut between two very busy roads in our city. This attitude of community awareness is what I call for-not the limiting of freedoms or rights.

I don't want speed bumps or traffic circles on my street. I will vote to place them there in order to protect my children. Wouldn't it be better if those speeders-and even those obeying the limits-practiced community awareness? Then neither they, nor myself, would have to face these inconvenient and imposed limitations.

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