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Apathy---Not Always a Bad Thing

John W. Pinkerton


Apathy is generally viewed as a negative.   Perhaps we have underestimated the positive values of this quality.  Perhaps it has unjustly been given a bad name.

Synonyms of “apathy” are the following:   indifferent, unconcerned, unmoved, unresponsiveimpassive, passive, detached, uninvolved, and disinterested.

As I approach my seventy-eighth year, I have begun to question the validity of my fears of this word “apathy.”  In recent days, my thinking has been altered by new evidence.

My new evidence comes from my community, Somerville, Texas, where I have lived for over fifty years.  The evidence was always there, but like a cold case, I re-examined this old evidence to see if I could find something new.

During my fifty years as a member of this community, the population of our town has diminished (presently approximately 1300).  At one time, it was a booming, prosperous community based on the local Sante Fe Railroad switching yard and tie plant and at one time other facilities.  Most of these folks are poor.  Many draw welfare and other government benefits.  Those who work, usually work out of town in Bryan or Brenham or Caldwell.

I've watched people visit or actually move here who seem alarmed by the appearance of the community.  A cousin visited us in Somerville for the first time about a year ago.  She seemed to be alarmed by the number of houses which were not kept in good order and the debris she witnessed in some yards.  I tried to explain to her that people living on the edge of poverty have little interest in a well-trimmed lawn.  In spite of my best efforts to diffuse her criticism, she seemed unable to conceal her disgust.  She's a good person: bless her heart.

Facebook reveals a lot of yahoos who seem to revel in their criticism of Somerville.  Most remarks are pretty petty.  “There aren't enough Christmas decorations.  Pretty sad.”  Wow!  I don't know how we'll ever recover from that criticism.  The fellow who posted this criticism claimed to have once lived here but felt the necessity to move on.  We wish him well.

Somerville folks, for various reasons, may be judged as apathetic…but not so fast, Solomon.   Thoughts of folks, folks off yonder, who live in more “sophisticated” locations seem to spend a lot of time thinking about the sexual preferences of folks, in the religious beliefs of folks, and in the races of their fellow men and women.  These “yonder” folks seem to be Hell bent on their beliefs about these subjects and to be determined to “win” the day.  Meanwhile, in Somerville we are indifferent, apathetic toward these subjects.

We look up from our county newspaper and ask, “What's all the noise about?” and go back to reading the reports on the local sports teams, the FFA, and the occasional auto accident.

What the folks of Somerville are not apathetic about is the well being of our fellow citizens.  Little kindnesses are done each day and folks in more “sophisticated” locations would be amazed by the local efforts to assist those down on their luck.

Marilyn Welch, a pillar of our community said it better than I: “I want to say how proud I am to have lived in Burleson County all my life. The people are honest, hard working citizens and the first to respond when there's a need. I've witnessed fundraisers, barbeques, auctions, bake sales, and fund me's for those fallen on hard times. I've seen clothes, furniture and food collected for victims of fires, etc. I've seen shelters provided for those who had none and helping with children. You name it and our people did it and continue to on a daily basis. When someone is cut, we all bleed, and that's the way it should be. They may call us Slumville and Clodwell but it's ok. We know better. We may have an opportunity to help them one day, and you know what? We will. It's who we are.”

Because of poverty, we may appear apathetic about the appearance of our community, and we are rightly judged to be apathetic toward false interests in differences in race, religion, and sexual preferences of our fellow citizens.  I accept the charge of apathy on these subjects, but not on the heart of our community.