James Buchanan once said, “I love the noise of democracy.” If that were the case, he would have loved this election season. Things have certainly been, well, noisy.

Want a sample of the noise? Go check out the online comments on the latest TC Ticker article about tall buildings, street redesigns, or county budgets. From immigration policy to local zoning, this election has brought out a lot of opinions and a lot of heated debate.

I’ve been enriched by the chance to participate in many of those debates at the occasional happy hour or get together. A voice or two may have been raised, a drink or two spilled in the heat of the moment. For me, this year has reinforced something I’ve always believed—civic engagement matters and if you’re doing it right, it might get messy.

Trying to figure out how to get along and work toward common goals as a community isn’t always easy, or even civil, but it’s important. And while we don’t always agree, I do believe that those who take the time to participate, to run for office or weigh in on the issues, are doing so because they care and they want to protect or improve our community.

Despite these good intentions, engaging those with whom we disagree can be really difficult. It would be a lot easier to simply surround ourselves with people who think like us.

So, why even bother?

When multiple opinions and perspectives are represented, our local organizations and our government get better.

And, I hope that somewhere in the process, those of us who participate also get better. We expand our horizons and our ways of thinking.

For my part, I’m going to continue to push myself out of my comfort zone. To learn from people with whom I disagree. To stretch my understanding of the world by exposing my beliefs to debate and criticism from people who think differently.

And, I’m lucky because I have friends, colleagues, and community members who are willing to do the same and who aren’t afraid to get a little noisy.