They had a slight advantage over some other cities, namely money. They were one of some select locations for Riverboat Casinos that provided something like $25 million extra dollars in the budget every year. A couple of years of this extra Riverboat revenue had left them in great shape. They had no debt and a lot of money to spend. Money to spend on trying to win this coveted award.
I remember when they lost too. One year they came in second I believe and vowed to take the crown the following year. The new approach was to beautify the city. They planted so many trees you’d think it was arbor day sixty days of the year. Every street corner was freshly mulched, with beautiful flowers, beautiful trees and clean as a whistle. But they still didn’t win.
I moved out of the area shortly after that, but I had a vision for this contest. I wondered what it would be like if we took the Riverboat revenue and eliminated the hungry people in our town. There was a huge homeless shelter on the far end of the town. I never investigated to see what kind of numbers would be required to feed an entire town but surely that would be an original idea. Can you imagine how cool it would be to say that no one went hungry in your town? No one, not one person was hungry. Now that, would surely be some good bragging rights. But would anyone care? And which would you rather move to given the choice: a city where no one was hungry and they took care of their residents or a city that was beautiful?
I don’t think people think about it much. I donated to this particular shelter regularly and more so during the holidays. I never visited it but would read the literature they sent on the new shelter that was being built and how many more mouths it would feed. I can’t say that I ever knew anyone who was really hungry, but just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I guess for me, I always thought of the town investing in the landscaping as kind of superficial. I mean, it was like having a poor family live in a home-they were hungry but had a beautiful yard. From the outside, it would look like everything is fine and on the inside the family would be hungry. A silly analogy of course, but the idea is that there were people in the town who needs should be taken care of first, and then the beautification of the city would happen after that.
Blogging Against Disabilism Day got me thinking back to the shelter and this contest. A lot of the issues facing people with disabilities have more to do with ignorance than people not wanting to provide a service, like a proper restroom for the disabled. I don’t believe hospitals purposely set out to exclude that part of the population but I also don’t think it’s at the top of our minds either. We live in a pretty materialistic world. We advertise in our brochures that we have state of the art technology, the one piece of equipment that no one else has, that we have the best doctors or the best hospitals and yet, simple things, like making sure our patients can get in/out of our facility is on the back burner. And you don’t think that if you advertised the fact that you had facilities that were “accessible” that people would come? Who uses these places anyways?
We want everything today and don’t like it when we can’t have it. We have so much and yet, we really have so little. We don’t take time to help each other anymore. We’d rather put people in a home than to care for them in their own home, because no one really has that kind of time. Let’s face it, it’s not really cool to be kind. Would you be proud if they wrote about your kid like this, “So and so’s best asset, is that he’s really kind.”
I wonder what will happen over these next few years, as the baby boomers age and become more disabled. Will we just put everyone in a home and not let anyone come out? Or will we upgrade our facilities so people can live a good life? Or maybe, we’ll just plant some beautiful flowers and have a great landscape architect design beautiful grounds for the home. I guess if you can’t live a beautiful life, you can always look at one.