No. 594



Each year Money Magazine produces a list of the best places to live in America. This past year the best place, according to Money, was Fort Collins, Colorado. This small community, home of Colorado State University, is nestled at the foot of the Rocky Mountains and has a lifestyle that appeals to many urban dwellers who have moved to Fort Collins to escape the rat race of big city life. One of the things I noted about Fort Collins, along with all the other communities on the list, was a low crime rate.

In case you did not know, the murder rate in our country was up 11 percent in 2006 over the previous year. This is not something most of us think about on a daily basis, but it is becoming more of a problem in our nation, especially in larger cities, because we have trended toward a more violent society. During the past year, a University of Miami football player was murdered, along with another who played for the Denver Broncos. In the past year we had a young bank teller in Little Rock shot in the back during a robbery.

To be sure, no Chamber of Commerce likes to talk about crime, especially murder, because that kind of news won't attract many new people to come there to live. Yet, we know from all accounts that the "quality of life" is one of the things we would all look for in choosing a new place to live. Here in Conway, we even have a newly formed, Quality of Life Council.

While it's not a pretty thing to say, the quality of life only applies to those of us who are still living, and not for those who have been murdered.

With your permission, I would like to redirect my focus a bit and say that, rather than focusing our attention on the quality of life, we need to focus on the quality of people. It's the people in any given community that make it a great place to live, anyway. Over the past several decades we have become a nation of sports fanatics. We have gone from having a competitive spirit of always wanting to win to one of wanting to win at all costs. There are many reasons for this, but like most everything else, the major reason is money.

When both players and coaches are making astronomical amounts of money, you have changed the dynamics of the game itself. Please understand, I am not saying that it is sports that are causing an increase in crime, especially murder, but it is contributing to the increasingly violent society we are living in. When you combine this with illiteracy, illegal drug use, gangs, and a myriad number of addictions, you have a snapshot of what the future holds.

As a people, we just have to look ourselves in the mirror and say, "Is this what we really want? Are we content to continue on as we have in the past and see our society become increasingly more violent with more crime and more murder that reaches down into even the smallest communities?" To be sure, I can't change this. Only the American people can decide to do that. Over time, we can do that through our elected representatives.

It's just human nature to want to win, and we all want to be a winner. Let me tell you who the real winners are. It's not necessarily the ones who set the records or get the trophies, or even those who drive the Hummers and live in exclusive neighborhoods. The real winners are quality people, and you can find them in every walk of life. I believe we need to spend more time in the future producing quality people, especially in our homes.

Here are four character traits that I believe every quality person has. No. 1 - A deep and reverent respect for the rights and property of others. We must value human life. No 2 - Honesty. When we restore honesty in our national fabric, we will solve many of our problems. No. 3 - Hard work. We feel best about ourselves when we earn what we receive. No. 4 - A spirit of gratitude. We never achieve success all by ourselves. ---

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, Ark. 72034. To support literacy, buy his book, "Learning, Earning & Giving Back.")