This is one of those Pollyanna columns. It is one of those that will draw head-shakes and conspiratorial harrumphs of “exactly” from the too-small portion of the populace actually working to make things happen. It will just as likely draw conspiratorial harrumphs of “so’s your old lady,” or some similar disaffirmation from the sit-on-your-duff-and-gripe crowd.
This is one of those columns where I tell that later group to stop griping, get off their substantial duffs, and do something. They hate it when I tell them that.
The reason for this irritating descent into optimism is two-fold. One, I just came off a weekend of very successful public events and, two, I just had yet another person explain to me why those sorts of events just never happen in Lima.
Ironically, it was while I was sitting at one of those aforementioned events that I was approached by the woman whose rhetoric prompted the coming rant. It was Sunday at Faurot Park and I was relaxing amidst a few hundred others, eating some good food, listening to some great music and generally enjoying the cacophony of folks enjoying themselves on a sweet summer Sunday when the lady approached, looked around with a slightly disgusted gaze, and said “It’s a shame stuff like this can’t happen in this town.”
My response was the obvious one. It is. I explained that what she was seeing was a reality, that people of all sorts were enjoying themselves in a public park. I asked her what made her say that a thing she was actually experiencing could not, indeed, be happening.
Her answer was one I’ve heard too many times in my life. “You just can’t have nice things in this town,” she said, rejecting considerable evidence to the contrary. “You can’t get anything done here.”
I would have taken the time to answer her but I was too busy getting things done.
Please do not mistake this for bragging, but I am a man who has gotten a lot done in this town. Some of it was pretty good, some of it, just plain bad, but it happened.
In the past year alone, I have — with the help of a roomful of hardworking friends and business owners willing to pony up financial support — assisted in the production of nearly two dozen concerts, parties and performances, all public and a great majority of them free.
All-told, more than 15,000 people have visited one of those events (not calculating for return attendees) and somewhere close to $60,000 was raised for a variety of good causes. And I’m a volunteer. All of this was done in my spare time, the time left over after working a couple of jobs and raising two daughters.
It goes without saying that I am not even close to the top producer of events in this town. The events I have helped put together make up a small percentage of the big and small affairs taking place every week, produced by people who work a lot harder than I, people who bust their butts to make sure we have events that are not only cool, but that meet the needs of the diverse segments of our community. That part of it is hard and relatively thankless.
So you can understand if it irritates me to hear people say that nothing good can happen in Lima. Good things happen all the time. You are either too disengaged to know or too lazy to show.
What these people are actually saying is that the sort of good things they like are not happening. That part I get. If you are a young person in this town and too young to see the acts in some of the local bars, then your options are limited. The same can be said of fans of more esoteric music — zydeco, Americana, soul and a range of other styles. To those people, I have one response.
Most of the good stuff happening in this town was born from one person deciding they wanted to see something. The annual Blues Extravaganza started because an aging hippy named Pickle got tired of leaving town to see great Blues acts. The rally in the Square started because an aging box salesman named Fred thought it would be a good way to raise money for ArtSpace that had the added benefit of giving him an excuse to start drinking at 6 p.m. on a Friday.
Contrary to what the sit-on-their-duffers will tell you, this is a great town to make things happen. We are small enough that you can navigate the bureaucracy with relative ease. We’re big enough that we have businesses willing to sponsor good ideas. And we have a plethora of nonprofit leaders who would be thrilled to hear your idea, and lend some logistics expertise, if it means raising money for their cause.
As I mentioned, this is one of those Pollyanna columns. This is the part where I tell you to stop griping that your favorite steampunk dance company is not performing at the Civic Center and just make it happen. Because, while there really are a lot of great things happening in this town, there is always room for more.