While watching oil drip from my car’s engine for the third time in two weeks (following two expensive “repairs”), I began complaining to a friend, and loyal Advocate reader, about the lousy service I was receiving from the repair shop.

During my weak moment, he suggested a new Advocate column idea – a monthly feature highlighting the “worst service by a neighborhood retailer.”

Admittedly, this was a tempting idea during my foul mood. But upon some reflection, I don’t suppose that identifying bad retailers will solve any problems. Those people typically go out of business pretty quickly, anyway, because bad news always seems to travel faster than good.

Instead, I thought it would be more appropriate – and more in keeping with the Advocate’s stated goal of “improving the quality of life in our neighborhoods” – if we highlight good service provided by neighborhood retailers and business people.

So that’s what we’d like to do, beginning in the next few months.

For this column to work, though, we’ll need your help. Jot down your positive experiences with neighborhood retailers and business people (hopefully, your submissions will include a disproportionate number of Advocate advertisers) and send them to us at 6510 Abrams, Suite 220, Dallas 75231.

I seem to recall science class lessons teaching us that reinforcing good behavior is more constructive than penalizing bad behavior.

Let’s support the good guys with a little publicity, while leaving the bad guys to fend for themselves. By themselves.

Saluting The Good Guys

This year’s Advocate Award winners – Betty Hersey in Lake Highlands and Wink Dickey in East Dallas/Lakewood (see our cover story this month) – deserve our praise and our thanks.

It’s pretty easy for me to sit here and write all kinds of stories about things that should be happening in our neighborhoods, issues we need to tackle and groups that need our support.

But Dickey and Hersey aren’t just writing and talking about projects. They’re spearheading them.

Dickey’s Habitat for Humanity depends upon volunteers to build homes for the less fortunate in our community.

Despite all of the problems associated with home ownership (taxes, maintenance and mortgage payments, to name a few), how many homeowners would rather live in apartments?

Home ownership provides a sense of neighborhood stability, because homeowners typically can’t pick up and leave if neighborhood problems arise. If for no other reason than to protect our property values, we tend to look for a solution rather than an escape hatch.

As far as I’m concerned, every time Habitat settles another family into their new home, the value of my home increases just a bit. And the quality of our public schools inches up a notch.

For that, I thank Dickey and his Habitat crew.

Meanwhile, Hersey is helping solve the problems of apartment children without adequate after-school supervision. The children’s alternative: Watching Oprah and tapes of the Terminator movies. Or worse.

I don’t think Oprah can claim her show helps kids with their homework, works with them to resolve family problems or provides positive role models.

But Betty Hersey can. Through her work, many children in our neighborhoods have a better chance to become positive role models for their own kids.

Dickey and Hersey are simply two people who live down the street and work hard to improve the quality of life for the rest of us.

They don’t need a plaque from the Advocate to know their work is appreciated. All they have to do is look into the eyes of the hundreds of people they’ve helped.

Let’s hope the rest of us can say the same thing.