What constitutes the greatness of a community? Is it the ability to build great infrastructure or dazzling buildings?

Is it the creation of a bustling business district or fantastic churches, mosques and temples?

All of these and more are signs of prosperity, but none are the telltale signs of what it truly means to be a community.

What makes a community is the willingness of citizens to care for those who are in need.

Last week, the city announced that it will resume shutting off water and electricity services on Oct. 5 for households with unpaid accounts.

Best estimations suggest that over 5,800 families in our city will be without utilities.

Most of these families were in desperate economic situations before the pandemic hit. Now they will be in a worse situation if their utilities are shut off.

It seems to me that we should rally to help those who are facing shut-off. We can assist our neighbors.

I lay two suggestions before you.

One, ask the Columbia City Council to either extend the shut-off extension or give utility amnesty to those families that cannot pay their utility bills.

The weather is getting cooler, and most of these are families with children. No one, adult or child, should have to sit in a house or apartment without heat or water.

The economy is still reeling from the pandemic. The little money these families have barely pays for food and rent.

We need the City Council to act with compassion. We need the council to grant either an extension or debt forgiveness to these families.

Two, we need churches, organizations and people to create an emergency fund to pay utility debts.

There are some large and wealthy churches in Columbia that by working together could wipe out the debt for those most in need.

Civic organizations in Columbia, as well as our most prosperous citizens, can create a safety net for community members most in need. Columbians have the resources; we just need to act.

The wonderful thing about people helping people is that it is not political, it is social.

This call to be community is not about being Republican or Democrat, progressive or conservative, Anglo or a person of color.

Responding to need is about being human. It is time for Columbians to come together and be kinfolk , not just dwell on being skin folk.

All of us have been hurt by the pandemic. All of us have felt economic strain. But little becomes much when we pool our resources. Let us make sure that no family goes without electricity or water.

Why? Because helping the least among us demonstrates what it means to truly be a community.

About opinions in the Missourian: The Missourian’s Opinion section is a public forum for the discussion of ideas. The views presented in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Missourian or the University of Missouri. If you would like to contribute to the Opinion page with a response or an original topic of your own, visit our submission form.

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