I don’t like to be discouraged. However the momentum I first felt that propelled me down this path seems to be waning. In the beginning I felt that despite a perception of Lansing falling quickly into the shadows of Flint post GM manufacturing plants closing, I was seeing and feeling a sense of hope. I was participating actively in events and activities that created such a sense of growth and optimism. I was surrounded by these mid Michigan agents of good, who constantly energized a base of people to embrace Lansing, warts and all. A movement emerged, #lovelansing. It was strong. Lansing began getting national recognitions; Old Town with its 2011 Great American Main Street Awards and Lansing getting a nod from Kiplinger article listing it as one of 10 great cities for young adults. I’m not sure when I first noticed the decline in the #lovelansing intensity. I remember thinking to myself that with such a small group cheering on the crowds, we were going to get tired. Maybe that’s all it is. I think what people don’t realize, is how much energy, time and money goes into being a cheerleader for the city. The people who donate time, money and energy to non-profits, events, projects and volunteering for all of these, are not super heroes. They are normal people, with normal lives. They are raising children and caring for sick family members, and running small businesses, or owning small businesses or working for non profits. Some are even doing multiple things from that list. I think we hoped for a trickle down enthusiasm. Or even a constant pay it forward wave. As the recession and life wore us down I saw it getting harder and harder for the people of this group to volunteer. I watched sadly as some chose to move to another city or even state. I noticed the trials of life; divorce, job loss, job gain, child rearing, sickness, play its toll on this altruistic group. I remember during an interview with Michael McCallum I asked him if he ever feels like he’s the lone person, standing in the stands cheering his heart out. He said, yes. I bet I could find about 100 people who would say the same thing. I wonder why that is. Is it hard to be optimistic? Are people afraid of being disappointed? I remember a time when Pat drove our car into a construction area and got it stuck. We had a whole line of people standing out there telling us how bad it was and we were never going to get out and all kinds of negative comments. Only one person got in the dirt and helped us push it out; one. As I walked on the south side of Lansing today, I saw that attitude everywhere. It was overpowering. I walked passed about 20 people while walking. Not one of them smiled back at me. It was almost as if the innocence of that smile was lost on them, it wasn’t good enough (or bad enough). I felt that I needed to represent a roughened countenance. I had to look as beat up as they felt to fit in; furrowed brow, sweaty face, downturn mouth. It was sad. Things that normally cheer me up seemed to make it worse. Normally I love the sun shining down on me. Today however, the sun being there only made me miss it that much more when it went away, leaving me cold and causing gusty winds to whip up, slamming doors of abandoned homes.
So this is what I’m going to say; if you’ve been a #lovelansing cheerleader, KEEP IT UP!! I’ll support you if you support me. That’s a promise. If you’ve just started being a #lovelansing cheerleader, welcome! If you are supporting a cheerleader, thank you!
Now, if you’re standing on the sidelines, telling everyone how bad it is or washing over all of us with your negativity, I’m going to ask you, what are you getting from that? Do you feel better? Do you like yourself, your house, your neighborhood more? What do you lose by jumping on the campy #lovelansing bandwagon? Nothing! However, you gain the ability to change the place you live. You change the perspective you share with other people in your vicinity. Best of all you change yourself!