We Thought We Were Going Somewhere
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We Thought We Were Going Somewhere • Posted: Oct 15, 2017 13:18:19Comments WelcomeVote CoolPhotoblogsPurchase a PrintShare

The other day I took a drive through an area south of Chicago that I hadn’t been through in a very long time. As I looked at the faces of the people around me I couldn’t help feel an absence of stress, anger, frustration, and despair. Instead, what I felt was calm and sometimes enjoyable engagement in daily routine. People were not elbowing others to get ahead. They were courteously waiting their turn. They were caring for their lawns, houses, cars, and children like it mattered to them, not as if fighting a hopeless battle against inevitable chaos. To me, it seemed as if a kind of cooperative balance had been achieved amongst the entire population of that area. They were not getting rich and threatening to take over the world, but they were not descending into inescapable poverty, either. They were getting along with each other and with their individual situations just fine.

Homeostasis in action? Could be. Could also be a case of community in action. Community in the sense that all felt they belonged, and each had a meaningful stake in maintaining the safety and wellbeing of all.

I have not done a thorough current economic analysis of that area, but it has changed. A few decades ago, the people of that area were almost all dependent upon several large steel producing companies for income. Today, those same companies are either gone completely or significantly downsized. Blight descended upon that area in a not very nice way. But today, there is significant evidence of a more diverse economy with a great many more smaller to medium sized businesses and industries. People within that community are no longer totally dependent upon the success of one or two large companies for employment. There is now resiliency and choice for pretty much all who live there. And that, I think, is what accounts for the lack of stress and despair on their faces today.

There has been much talk of “the American Dream”, and nearly all of it has been vague to the point of uselessness. People do not all have the same or similar dreams for their own futures. But, people all do seem to dream of something different and special in their futures. Mostly, I believe, they dream of edging forward toward something that feels a bit more thrilling, invigorating, and memorable, something that makes for a really interesting story to share with neighbors and friends.

Tragedy comes when in an effort to edge toward the objective of our dreams we toss away or neglect things that make edging toward our dreams possible, things like car and house and personal health, things like willful effort to maintain the viability of our communities, things like effective and uncorrupt self-government, quality public education for all, enforceable standards for goods and services, affordable and competent medical and dental care, and a healthful lushness to the environment in which we work and play.

The images above are from an area where many from that area south of Chicago sought escape, both before and after that economic blight hit. They did not find community there. They did not find lasting economic viability. They did find a few special moments of escape fishing, boating, and swimming with family and friends. But in the meantime, economic and social blight was descending back home south of Chicago, blight that in the end totally undermined whatever special feelings they may have enjoyed in their place of escape.

Yes, it is hard to recognize, appreciate, and do what is necessary to maintain that which is truly good for us, especially as it involves coordinating with others, others who may not outwardly look, speak, or act exactly as we do. Moving on without regard for the wake of blight we leave behind us may be simpler to do. But in the end, we lose much more than we could ever possibly gain. Far more efficient to put our collective minds to task and work to maintain, repair, and build upon the treasures we already have before us.

May all of us find, learn to thrive within, and work to maintain the healthful viability of a community we can all feel proud of. The grass in not always as green as we might imagine elsewhere.

Sunday, October 20th, 2013