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8.14.2012

OBSERVATIONS FROM AN OUT OF TOWNER



It's good to occasionally change our scenery.  Whether it's going to a seminar or a con-ed class to garner a new perspective, visiting another church to see how other people worship, or vacationing in an area that is different than our home.  Geographically, economically, culturally exposing ourselves to things outside of our small rotish worlds can be enlightening, even catalytic.

My husband had of late a new idea for a reality show called, "So, you think you have it bad?"  It would be a comparative visual on topography, economics, social, mental, relational and physical issues.  Granted if we spend our lives comparing ourselves or situations to other people, and if we do it enough, we can always find some poor soul far more destitute, bombarded with trials, down on their luck, fatter, or more generally messed up than we are.  The premise isn't to compare to feel superior, but to feel grateful.  To go back to your own life/place/circumstance with a better set of eyes in which to view what you are living. 

When we are around something for a long time it can become blase to us.  We are easily droned into be unaffected by it.  If you live with a remodel project long enough you sometimes lose the push to finish.  Easily do we become acclimated and comfortable living with no trim, unpainted walls, etc as we continually walk past it daily.  I am case in point.  Walking downstairs in my halfway painted basement for the past 2+ years I note I need to finish the job, but am used to needing to get it done and not progressing to getting it done.  I know it looks like shit, but it is familiar shit to me.  Not shocking to me any more.  And not as pressing as it should be!

Sometimes we need stuff outside of our normal routine to re-charge us, re-focus us, re-energize us, paint a better more accurate picture of this place in the world that is ours. For instance, I live in an a 55,000 person city in the Midwest.  It has seen better days economically and has, like most regions in the U.S., taken some hits in the real estate and job market.  Those hits have caused a ripple; less tax dollars in the city due to foreclosures, businesses pulling out, people moving for lack of jobs.  Less tax dollars means things are not kept in impeccable order; city maintenance issues, parks, upkeep in general in the things that the city cares for.  They too have been hit with a reduced work force.  It ripples in homeowners not spending to improve properties or sometimes even do the needed maintenance on them.  People have to cut back.  So, simple things like replacing mulch, or windows, putting in a new driveway, taking down an old tree all get put on the back burner. 
Collectively those put-off projects, neglects, or bare-minimums take a toll on the look of a city. 

I went to Oil City, Pennsylvania with my husband yesterday for a meeting he had.  It was a whirlwind trip out - 6 hours, and a rush back - 6 hours today.   Oil City is a great comparative tool for the town in which I live.  My town looked wealthy in comparison to this probably once thriving region. 

Oil City's wealth started in the 1850's with oil wells being drilled.  It thrived on oil, hosting headquarters for companies like; Pennzoil, Quaker State and Wolf's Head.  Tourism also played a role by showcasing those oil sites, nature trails and its Victorian architecture. 

Oil City was a thriving place during the last part of the 19th century and well into the 20th century.  It is known as the location for the exploration and development of the oil industry.  But by the 1990's all three oil companies relocated their headquarters elsewhere as only a few wells continued to produce a supply of petroleum.  It is estimated that somewhere between 19-22% of the population in Oil City are below the poverty level.  The median income for an average family of four is $36,000.  Oil City is the location where the Allegheny River and the Oil Creek converge near the foothills of the Appalachian mountains.

As we drove back to our town today the once yuckiness of my own town seemed bright and cheery in comparison to Oil City's depression, almost empty downtown, and poverty.  I noted some trashy properties here but not in the volume that region had.  Smoking is not nearly as prevalent here as it was in Oil City.  There was also just a general lack in the manner of cleanliness and dress, even in professional business attire.  The poverty, despair, this is all we got, our better days are behind us, was clearly felt and seen in the buildings and people.

Home is always good.  I felt blessed to be home and live here.  It seemed even better today, comparatively.

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