It was hardly a blip on last week's radar. The Commercial published a photograph and a few lines about the roof replacement on the historic Saenger Theater. In a community so often blanketed with violence, poverty and other ills, such a small victory could have easily been swept under the rug.

It was hardly a blip on last week’s radar. The Commercial published a photograph and a few lines about the roof replacement on the historic Saenger Theater. In a community so often blanketed with violence, poverty and other ills, such a small victory could have easily been swept under the rug.

While we seldom shrink from holding forth on local political follies and communal malaise, we also recognize the need for acknowledging the positive. As such, we are deeply heartened to see the city government take on the challenge that is the Saenger. It’s not a small challenge, nor a cheap one, but it represents so much potential, it can’t be squandered. We’re thrilled that local political leaders understand the importance, both practically and symbolically.

It is critical to the health of the community that projects like the Saenger and the Saracen Walking Trail be completed. To some, these efforts will be seen as trivial, but they aren’t. Just as we must find ways to mitigate the bad things about our town, so too, must we embrace that which is special, unique and promising.

Pope Paul IV once said, “liturgy is like a strong tree whose beauty is derived from the continuous renewal of its leaves, but whose strength comes from the old trunk, with solid roots in the ground.”

The “liturgy” of our community is not all that different. We derive a certain “beauty” from new development, but the core of who we are emanates from our history, our landscape and our people. We must find ways to build on those assets.

While no one disputes the need for modern retail and industrial development, it does not suit the character of our community to be little more than a replicate of every other interstate exit in the nation. There is an indisputable utility in the big box stores, chain restaurants and facilities common to most vital American communities, but ascription to that alone is insignificant justification for the continued existence of this community.

Rather, we must dig deep and ask ourselves “what is it that makes this place special?” What do we have to which few other places can lay claim? What about us merits a second look?

The answer surely lies in many of the resources we have heretofore failed to attend or promote. As such, we must labor to reclaim them. We must draw lines in the sand and declare that the buck does indeed stop “here.”

We are exceptionally fortunate in that much of our historic downtown is salvageable. We need not list the architecturally and historically significant structures waiting their turn for renewal. So too, do we have a plethora of wonderful private homes likewise waiting. It would be hard to drive through some of the older neighborhoods without wondering what this town could be with a few more engaged homeowners, a bit of paint and a little civic pride.

Of course, none of this happens overnight. The reroofed Saenger is still a field of corn waiting to become a field of dreams. Even so, the long-silenced voices of vaudevillians and movie-goers just got a tiny bit louder and the light of hope just got a little bit brighter. It’s just a first step to be sure, but it’s a good one.