Editorial: ‘Be excellent to each other’

By on May 3, 2012

For years following the 9/11 tragedy, high-level government officials continued to remind the public to “stay vigilant” whenever they were asked what the general public can or should do while going about their daily lives.

I am sure that many of you heard someone else—or even yourself—wonder what that actually meant. Was it just a serious-sounding phrase to make the public feel like they could contribute, or was there an actual behavior expected of us?

Years later, we as a public are still trying to “stay vigilant,” and we would like to use two recent examples of this concept as a way to explain that “staying vigilant” does not always mean be on the look out for the next terrorist attack, and it does mean that sometimes, what you point out while “staying vigilant” might turn out to be nothing. Either way, vigilance (defined as “Keeping careful watch for possible danger or difficulties”) is something members of close-knit communities have always done and should always continue to do.

Last week, Elburn Herald Assistant Editor Keith Beebe wrote a story about Sugar Grove resident and Village Board member Mari Johnson. She was aware that she had an elderly neighbor who was in poor health and lived alone. Because of that awareness, she noticed that she hadn’t seen him in several days, as well as noticing that his home began to seem vacant.

She had a feeling something was wrong, and ultimately checked his mailbox to see if anyone had been gathering his mail. It was full, so she tried her neighbor’s front door. The door was open, so Johnson and her husband entered and found her neighbor on the floor in the middle of the kitchen, unconscious.

She called the paramedics, and he was taken to the hospital. Ultimately, Johnson learned that doctors believe he may have been on his floor for up to two days, and would not have survived if he had not been found soon.

That is “staying vigilant”; that is looking out for one another; that is the perfect definition of what it means to be part of a community.

The other example occurred Wednesday, and while the situation ultimately turned into nothing, it is still a good example of “staying vigilant.” On Wednesday morning, someone noticed a grey box near the parking lot of the Kane County Judicial Center. That person notified a Judicial Center security officer, and from there the police response took over. Because officers were unable to determine what the box was or what was inside it, they notified the bomb squad. At the same time, they routed traffic away from the area—while all Judicial Center activities remained on schedule—and a safe perimeter was formed.

Ultimately, the bomb squad was able to open the box, and it was full of regular, everyday things—a DVD, a video game, a calculator.

So while nothing came of that act of vigilance other than an opportunity for law enforcement to effectively practice their response, this is a good example of “staying vigilant.”

There is an understandable inner voice that says “I’m sure it’s nothing” when people are faced with the choice of reporting something that seems not right. However, the concept of vigilance means that people should listen to the other inner voice, the one Mari Johnson and the the individual who reported the box at the Judicial Center heard, the one that says, “Something feels wrong, and I should not ignore it.”

Sometimes it turns out to be a simple grey box with a DVD and a video game inside of it. But sometimes it might turn out to be a neighbor whose only chance of survival is that someone else listens to that inner voice and takes action.

Even if it is not a potential life-or-death situation, acts of vigilance are, in actuality, acts of caring for each other by looking out for each other. We may not all be able to donate significant sums of money or tons of nonexistent free time, but we can all care for one another—we can all “stay vigilant.”