When I first moved back to Missoula after living in Billings, Minnesota, and the east coast, I was struck by how nice everyone was. But while it's nice to live somewhere with nice people, there are more practical behaviors that build community. So then what makes for a positive community? Dr. Nicole Celestine describes it this way for positivepsychology.com:

Positive communities are groups that inspire their members in ways that promote a sense of self-discovery and group connection, encourage members to express their beliefs and values and build relationships with others.

While inspiring others toward self-discovery may seem abstract and difficult to quantify, I'd argue there are simple ways to build a foundation toward creating a positive community, and that starts with being a good citizen. And with how much the Missoula community has changed over the last five years, residents old and new might need these suggestions.

Pick It Up

This goes for garbage and dog poop. Use trash cans where available. If you see litter that isn't yours but picking it up won't say, aggravate your sciatica or make you late, pick it up. There are a surprising number of dog-bag dispensers around town--grab a few extra bags and keep them in your jacket pocket or the center console of your car.

Pack It In, Pack It Out

When I was a kid we used to throw apple cores out the window while we were driving. I wouldn't do this now because you're just asking to attract a bear. This maxim usually applies to trail hikes but we have bears in the city limits so I'd say it applies just about anywhere.

Shovel your driveway/walkway

Especially if you live somewhere with a lot of foot traffic, it's not only helpful but it's required. Help your neighbors too--maybe they have physical limitations or they're out of town. They might return the favor.

Turn on Your Headlights

You have to have your headlights on for 30 minutes before sunrise and 30 minutes after sunset, but remember there are stipulations for inclement weather, too, and headlights are sometimes just as much about being seen as being able to see.

Wear Reflective Clothing

There are a lot of runners and cyclists in Missoula and while I know that running and cycling gear is expensive and sometimes limited in color choices, reflective gear and blinking lights are a huge help to vehicles, especially when it's dark.

Shop Locally/Donate Locally

Missoula thrives when the businesses and organizations that support the community are in turn supported by the community. And the number of nonprofit organizations per 10,000 people in Missoula is so high it really should be easy to find an organization that believes in the same things you do.

Splash! Photos from the 2023 Polar Plunge in Missoula

It was a beautiful day for a dip and to support Special Olympics of Montana!

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