Thursday, February 25, 2010

28 Reasons I Love Hamilton... Reason 25

Why write 28 reasons I love Hamilton?

1. Hamilton is a CITY.
2. Location
3. Size (population)
4. Scale
5. Creativity and the arts
6. Buildings
7. Nature

8. Film industry
9. Markets and restaurants
10. Trails, paths, and running routes
11. Gore Park
12. Climate
13. Safety
14. Landscapes and views
15. The ability to live modestly
16. Sports teams
17. Schools
18. Entertainment options
19. The churches and (other faith groups)
20. Festivals and events
21. History
22. Waterfront
23. Small businesses
24. Coffee

25. Being a real part of change.

A little more personal today.

It was a tough trip. And it shouldn't have been.

J-Rod and I walked to the market at Jackson.
Admired the crane that was installing new equipment on the way.
Picked up a few items from the library

Found some dandelion greens for Robulon
Bought face wash from PharmaPlus
Browsed through Coles for a particular book. Didn't find it. Oh well.
Took a minute to stop at the bank.
Headed home.

It took all of an hour and a half. The weather was great, the walk was pleasant, and we found everything we needed quickly. As we set out, we noticed Waxy's looked busy (wonderful) and the snowflakes were the tiniest ones we'd seen in ages.

Except... the entire way we had a headwind blowing cigarette smoke in our faces. We'd speed up to try and unobtrusively walk past one, and another would light up ahead of us. I did not want a migraine on my day off.

It was good Jackson was so busy even without the work-week traffic. And to be fair, a lot of it was pretty average traffic.

It just seemed like the worst elements were louder today than usual. Crowded, rude, loud, spitting... letting their toddler sit down on the floor of a store and play with the doormat. That plus the smoke on the way really got to us... and by the end, we just wanted to get out.

But I thought I'd stop in at one last store for one last thing - to find the song playing in the background was some moron going on about "all my baby mamas." I just said "screw this" and walked out.

(I've probably said before that I'm real big on the "nurture" vs. nature side of development.
Environment still matters, regardless of age.

Until Hamilton takes care of how it treats its poor or less socially or emotionally nurtured, it's going to keep spitting out the same type of result.

With all the advantages of Hamilton, if you're a hard worker and you have a trajectory going, you'll be fine. If you can seek out opportunity and examples you'll be fine.

But... there's been people I've told people not to move here. They're not motivated enough.
If you need an environment that will help push you to succeed and get off your couch and provide opportunity and examples for you to succeed on a relatable level - this is likely not the place for you.)

So... why was this morning encouraging?

On the way home, I didn't want us to stay mad. Indignant, maybe, but not upset.

My first response was to list the six or eight people that I'm glad we know here. We are not the only ones. We have several good friends, not just acquaintances, that are doing the same thing as us. They're self-supporting, working hard, doing what they need to do - and making it! The lie of this city is that it's not possible unless someone else is paying your way or otherwise helping you out - or that it's not possible at all. But it is.

There were one or two where we said "yeah, this city's getting to them in _______ regard. We gotta make a point of encouraging them."

My second response was.... if we were in another city again, we'd likely just be another version of the other people we know. Even though people called us "exceptional" there, which is flattering but irritating, we really weren't. It was the norm to put yourself through school (with or without parental help) and get an education, and then work to pay it off. And if the thing you are trained in wasn't hiring? Find another job or retrain - don't sit around and whine!

Here, we can still do the same thing -- and show just how unexceptional (read: normal and achievable) it can be. To be an example of how you can come from very little, and make something of yourself.

And we can encourage others who are trying to do the same thing - and those who are only starting to make those choices in life, or starting to make those choices for the first time.

Not that you ever do it completely alone - we have faith, we have friends, and we have a community around us that all shape the environment we find ourselves in. Change is possible. And it is possible here.

But if we went to live among a homogenous group again, what good would that do?

Change doesn't come through isolation.
It doesn't (largely) come through donation.

It comes through presence.
It comes through example.
It comes through being part of things.

So I'm content to do something unexceptional in most contexts, and so-called exceptional in this one.
I'm content to remain a grown-up.
I'm content to be someone who's worked hard and made it through life - the ups and down.
I'm content to keep being an example.
I'm content to keep giving people skills to succeed.
And I'm content to be part of the many groups that offer larger solutions.

Because at least here the opportunity exists to be a part of the solution. Our problems aren't shuffled off in giant highrises or peripheral developments. They're at the core. And you can either run away and compartmentalize, or deal with it. But it's a lot harder to compartmentalize here.

Perhaps your place - in your city - is to be a developer. Or a tutor. Landlord. Grandparent. Neighbour. Mentor. Business owner. Employee.

But whatever it is, do it well, and be part of the solution. Don't distance yourself.

Many of us will have the opportunity to own property. Where you buy your house changes things.

So one day, we'll make the choice most parents need to - to initially buy, or move to a neighbourhood that you're comfortable with your kids going to school in. Thankfully, there's several neighbourhoods with great schools that are also close enough - and varied enough - to make a difference in while retaining proximity.

There's no need to move to the periphery of town for that like there is in other cities. But if you do, you'll still find needs you can address there - if you take the time to be aware of their existence and choose to acknowledge them.

As a Christian, and as a pastor, my view looks far ahead. I've posted this meditation by Archbishop Oscar Romero above my desk for a long time. Whatever your own perspective, the realization that change is incremental, but significant, is important. And there's also value in trying to find larger, collaborative solutions that address problems on a larger scale.

I can be a real part of change. And that's another reason I love Hamilton.

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