When I scheduled myself to speak about place attachment to a group in Cleveland, I did not give one single, solitary thought to the fact that the event would be the day after the election. Until I woke up in the Cleveland Marriott, checked my phone, and thought, “Oh crap. What have I done?”
As feared, people were like zombies that day, filing into the board room with grief-stricken faces and schmearing their bagels with cream cheese and depression. In the presence of all this angst, would anyone even care about a Pollyanna message like “Help your community and things will be okay”?
Then we started talking, and I realized: THIS is how we cheer up. We share why we love where we live and contemplate how we can make it even better. By the time everyone left an hour and a half later, I think we’d reclaimed a bit of the hope and joy that presidential politics had sucked out of us.
Localism is such a welcome antidote to pervasive national horror and outrage because it gives us more control about outcomes. Here, we know some things suck, but we love our place anyway. We believe in our city’s future. We want to be involved in a way that actually makes life better for ourselves and other people.
So if you’re going to talk about how love is the answer, start where you are. Do something good for someone in your town today. Give a stranger a cookie. Throw money in the tip jar. Pay for the person behind you in line at Starbucks. Smile. Share compliments liberally. Pick up a piece of trash in the street. Join a committee to help refugees. Volunteer for the food pantry. Make goodness happen where you live.
It’s a lot more fulfilling than rage-tweeting every five minutes.
7 items of interest
1. What life is like when you have an urban tribe, according to Mr. Money Mustache. (Favorite quote: “Kids and salads, tools and books and loaned vehicles, money and heirloom tomatoes and homebrews tend to circulate freely through the crowd, enriching us all with each transaction.”)
2. This rural Australian town was dying, until it invited a slew of African refugees to settle there.
3. All you have to do to make your streetscape more appealing is print this furniture and assemble it like puzzle pieces.
4. Another shout-out to the mood-boosting properties of walking.
5. Vibrant downtowns are just cooler; this writer takes a stab at pinning down why it works in Montgomery, Alabama.
6. “I never say no to an essay about leaving New York.”
7. If you’ve read my book, please review it. Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble. I’d be grateful.
Subscribing to my newsletter is better than experiencing impotent political rage.