Living in Flint, Michigan isn’t easy.
Yeah, I know, run through your Open Mic Thursday stand-up routine for me about how crummy the city I love is and I’ll move on when you’re done.
The thing about this area is that yeah, there’s a lot of things that are going on here that are bad, not ‘not good’ but bad. I am not going to belabor that point because the local and national media has a pretty good grasp on things here, at least the crime and all the bad things going on. It’s a drag. The thing is though that in pointing out all the bad things here the good is overlooked. Hope and all that stuff doesn’t make for engaging news, I get it, and I am not going to act as if the story of someone murdered or robbed is less important than the story of a festival or a new business. The math doesn’t work out, nor should it.
Tragedy, bummer though it is, is universal. Joy isn’t. I wish that wasn’t the case but it is. We all feel pain, we all know tragedy. Not everyone knows joy. And in a city that has a lot of struggle to overcome it doesn’t really seem reasonable to expect everyone to jump for joy at the small successes and the little victories.
It’s so easy, so very easy to burn the world down.
All it takes is a match and something flammable.
It’s building things, things like hope that create a foundation for people and for the future, that are hard to do. Hard to make.
There is no glory or honor or true joy to be found in tearing things down yet we are a city that thrives on negativity. And again, some negativity is natural and reasonable but there’s a point where you start hurting yourself for attention and a point past that where you hurt yourself because it’s the only thing you know and that’s where we are. We just don’t know HOW to be hopeful anymore. So many have been waiting so long for the clouds to part that you begin to wonder if there was ever a sun at all. Ah, but the thing is that sometimes you have to make your own light. And you know what else fire is good for – creating light.
The same passion people put into their negativity can be put into doing things. And sure, an art show, a craft show, a concert, a bicycle tour, a car show, none of those things alone makes the city a better place but together they start to change perceptions. They start to change minds. Every little act, builds to bigger acts. Every small event opens the door for more events and bigger events. Events and ‘happenings’ lead to more people coming into Flint, spending money in the city and spending time here. The more good and fun things going on the better chance that all the young people that go to school here will spend time here doing more than just GOING TO SCHOOL. And the more people coming here, being here, spending time and money here the more attractive it is for businesses to come here to take advantage of all those people.
Sure it is, but it’s HOPEFUL reasoning and there is reason TO it.
I’d rather be hopeful about Flint than to spout nonsense like it should be bulldozed and burned and ignored. It is just so easy though to give up because then you can’t get hurt, you can’t get disappointed, and you look like a genius when things go or stay bad.
Only, you shouldn’t root for the fall of a city and its people.
You shouldn’t root for destruction.
It’s petty. And small. And mindless. And childish. And it’s so black hearted that it makes you wonder what it is that gives those people any joy at all, because if watching people flounder and watching a city die is your kick then you’ve got way more trouble than Flint.
We’re at a point in Flint where we can burn the city down or light it up and I choose to light it up. I choose to believe that the small things, the small events, the small businesses, and the little bits of kindness and civility we offer one another can make a different and can change the tide. There are a million reasons why things got bad in Flint – jobs left, poverty grew, education fell, people moved away, drugs and violence grew, and apathy and frustration skyrocketed. Those are just SOME of the reasons things got bad but you know how they can get better – Hope. And yeah, it takes more than wishing on a four leaf clover to change the fate of a struggling city but it’s like kicking an addiction – if you don’t take that first step, no matter how small, you can never learn to kick. You can never learn to run.
And who knows what will happen in the end? I know where I stand though and isn’t with a can of gasoline in one hand and a match in the other. No, I stand here blowing on the embers of the spark that makes Flint so special, hoping that eventually those of us who believe and work to make this a city to be proud of will be here to see the Phoenix rise from the smoldering ashes.