BY MARIA D. JAMES — Recently I made a new friend. One Saturday, as I visited the Mall at Prince Georges to cover an event, I stopped over at Subway to grab lunch before heading home. While I was waiting in line, an elderly African-American woman with salt-and-pepper hair and a kind face tapped my arm and asked if I wanted to share a “buy one, get one free” coupon with her. We sat together in the restaurant and enjoyed our lunch. Through our discussion, I learned that we share a mutual love for thrift-store shopping. We were strangers, but her generous gesture didn’t strike me as odd. Not in Hyattsville, anyway. When I relocated to Hyattsville from Washington, DC, in 2013, I was simply looking for a place of my own to call home. Now, three years later, I can say I have found a home and a community.
This month, I celebrate my first anniversary as managing editor for the Hyattsville Life & Times (HL&T). In my introductory article, I stated how I planned to spend time learning about our readers and the community — and boy, did I! A month after I started my position, we experienced a snow blizzard. After that, the the events and stories just kept coming. Each month, I was introduced to a new and interesting part of our community. I attended festivals, library talks, and other events. I witnessed talented artists create unique works of art, and I attended committee meetings where residents voiced their opinions on many of topics, such as whether non-U.S. citizens should have the right to vote in Hyattsville and how to handle parking in residential areas.
In this past year, I learned that being in a community is more than simply living in it. A community thrives when individuals roll up their sleeves and put effort into making it better. I’ll admit that when I first moved into the area, I was one of those people who silently lived in a community. I never really thought about how I could give back. Honestly, I thought “those people” who were active in their community were older residents and maybe retired. I mean, I spoke to my neighbors, but most days I just went to work and came home to watch TV. Joining the HL&T allowed me to use my voice — and my pen — to give back to this community; for that, I’m thankful.
Soon, the HL&T will introduce our first-ever readers survey. We want to hear from you, our readers. We want to know what you like about the newspaper, what you would change, and what you would like to see more of. I hope you will participate in the survey. I wish each of you happy holidays and a merry Christmas.