Thursday, May 03, 2007

It’s a Beautiful City

It was over seven years ago, when I lived in a town, that used to compete for the “Nicest City to Live in America” or something like that. It was a big contest where cities and towns would compete for bragging rights over this issue. The winner would not only have bragging rights, but it would be the featured city in a national magazine thus attracting more people to the area. Every year, for at least three years that I know of, the city would compete for this award. They would hold big meetings and plan their strategy for the coming year. The city boasted over 100,000 residents so it was no small endeavor. They would advertise the contest on billboards within the city limits as if putting it out there, would gain them extra points. They would be evaluated on numerous criteria, so careful planning was important.

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.


catherine said...

I would be very proud if my children had as their best asset that they are kind (do you really think that is outside the norm?). I think often of the baby boomers too as I navigate around with my child in a wheelchair and think that with their seemingly limitless power they could really do something en masse -- but I haven't seen anything yet to make me think it will happen (I think they may deny the aging process a little . . . can't do that forever though). Sometimes I scare myself with my optimism :)

Nice post, as always

Kath said...

I guess it depends on your perspective. Our backgrounds and experiences shape our perspectives and I wonder if Dear Son had been able bodied if you would even notice the obstacles that disabled people face?

While beautiful surroundings give me great pleasure and I have scrimped on my food budget many times so I could choose flowers over food, I do agree with you to a certain point.

It would be great to have no one in your city go hungry, That WOULD be fantastic. What would be even more fantastic is to find out what is causing the hunger..and I am guessing homeless...situation and do away with the cause.

Imagine not having a food bank because you don't need one.

Finally, as a tail ender of the baby boom generation, I have given lots of thought to my care if my health takes a turn for the worse.

If my health deteriorated to such a point where I couldn't care for myself or express myself as I do now, I would commit suicide. I love my quality of life and if it were to degrade past a certain point, I wouldn't want to live.

I've made that clear to my friends and friends understand and are cool with family, not so much.

Thank goodness for Living Wills and friends that are healthcare professionals that have access to life-ending drugs.

Dream Mom said...

Kath-I certainly would not have noticed many of the obstacles the disabled face had it not been for Dear Son. He has changed my perspective on so many things and opened my eyes to a world that I never knew existed or paid very little attention to.

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