I’ve been all sorts of places. I grew up in a place where if one road crossed the other and one of those roads was paved, then it was an excuse to call it a town. But I’ve been to London, Moscow, and São Paulo. I’ve lived in Austin, Texas and Provo, Utah (which is by far the cleanest place I’ve ever been). I’ve been to a village in Siberia called Aginskoye which is just about as far from anywhere as anywhere can be.
And always, having the sort of mind I do, there was a question: What makes it all work?
And the answer is so simple that a two-year-old who’s never left home could answer it: People.
You have to have people to do the work.
There is more to it than that, of course. If you’ve got a bunch of people in one place and they are all doing their own thing, then that can cause problems. I could spend a lot of time on those, but that is not what I am after today. The point is that people are a basic part of what makes it all work.
Another piece of the puzzle, whose necessity you can infer from the previous paragraph is leadership.
Now I look at our town of Pittsburg which I now call home. Come June my family will have been here 27 years, so we are just new-comers. But the town suits us.
Towns are like people and living in a town is like being in a marriage. Over the course of time, you will change and your town will change but--if you have a commitment and a sense of home--then you change yourself to accommodate your town. And the town will accommodate itself as well because towns are the people that are in them.
I said towns change. There are the obvious ways like new stores being built; new performing arts centers being built. But the most important changes occur with the people who move in and move out. Towns are the people who are in them. Here is the part where leadership comes into the mix. The services our town offers and the buildings that are built will affect the sort of folks that move in and move out.
They’ll never start a computer chip factory in the place where I grew up because the sorts of people who run that kind of factory want to do something in their spare time besides sit on the bank of a farm pond and shoot turtles with a 22. If you want to draw in the managerial types, you’ve got to provide something edifying for them in their spare time: Concerts; speaker-series; movie-houses that show something besides chainsaw-massacre movies; good places to shop.
When people are figuring out where to put a business, they look at all of this stuff and more. It’s their money they are investing and they have a choice of where to put it. The people who live in a town can, in cooperation with their leadership, create a place that is attractive for those who invest their money and create jobs.
I think that we are in a moment in time where we have excellent leadership: In the City Hall; on Main Street; and at the University. I think we are a town that is standing at a crossroads where at least one of the ways leads to great things.
I can offer no advice, though, beyond that of the great philosopher Yogi Berra: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it!”
— Bobby Winters, a native of Harden City, Oklahoma, blogs at redneckmath.blogspot.com and okieinexile.blogspot.com. He invites you to “like” the National Association of Lawn Mowers on Facebook.