What does it take to be a good citizen in your community?

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Every community is different with various expectations and norms. That said, there are some guidelines for being a "good citizen" that most anyone could agree on:

Help Others

Some people contribute to their community through organized volunteer work. Some make the goal their actual career. And others simply find a way to really see those in need—from the person in a wheelchair who can't grab the cereal off the top shelf at the grocery store to the child on the playground who can't seem to find her mom—and jump in to help. This takes being less self-absorbed and more conscious of the needs of others, but it's vital to being a good citizen and making a community as efficient as possible.

Work Hard

Everyone in a community has unique talents, and it is through the combination of those talents that the community can do well. Not everyone has the same abilities, and being able to work hard with given abilities also makes someone a good citizen.

Be a Voice in the Governing Process

Everyone over 18 can vote, but it's also important to keep abreast of issues facing the local community and to to be a voice for change when and where it's needed.

Respect Others

This means that good citizens don't commit crimes against their fellow community members, and it also means that good citizens don't slander or otherwise disrespect community members.

Make the Community Better

There is a saying that provides solid advice here: When you arrive at a place, leave it better than you found it. This prevents simply being complacent in maintaining a status quo. Good citizens look at their communities and determine not simply how to maintain it but how to make it better.

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The first crucial element in answering the question is to define what "community" means you. The term can apply to a small number of people with whom you share interests, a neighborhood or town in which you live, or a larger and more abstract entity such as the nation.

Being a good citizen involves making a commitment to help the entity and its members. That could include advocating for the rights of community members who are underrepresented, as well as for the dominant majority. Participation in electoral campaigns could be a significant component. Even small actions such as recycling make a difference.

Thinking globally about sense of community is also important. One's actions at the local level affect the members of the larger community of which we are all members: the inhabitants of Earth.

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According to a World Bank blog, a good citizen is one who is:

  • Capable of sharing what they have with others
  • Fair in their dealings with those they interact with
  • Against violence
  • Honest in the things they do and say
  • Able to maintain order

In my opinion, a good citizen should measure up to socially acceptable norms. These norms should be viewed with regards to existing laws, culture, politics, environment and other macro- and microfacets of social existence.

For instance, governments around the world consider a good citizen to be one who pays their taxes, is obedient to the law, and supports and participates in community development. Environmentally, a good citizen would be one that conserves the environment and ensures all their activities do not harm the environment. Socially, a good citizen would be one who helps those in need and relates well to those around them.

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There are many levels to what a person must do to be considered a good citizen.

At the most basic level, the person must obey the laws.  Good citizens pay their taxes.  Good citizens obviously do not break the law in major ways like theft and murder.  But a truly good citizen also does not break the law in minor ways that hurt the community, like dumping oil in storm drains or things like that.

At a second level, good citizens participate in their government.  They must at least vote on a regular basis.  Preferably, they will also make their opinions known on important public issues.

Finally, truly good citizens work to improve their communities.  They do things like volunteering in ways that are beneficial to their community.  They may help at their children's school or they may participate in church activities that are aimed at charity or community improvement.

In these ways, a good citizen obeys the laws and also participates in improving his or her community.

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