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Bashing your hometown? I can't hear you!Posted Monday, May 25, 2009, at 5:53 AM
It's been more than 50 years since I lived in my hometown of Newark, New Jersey.
(Save the jokes, please, and the phony accent -- I've already heard all the jokes, most of them many times and nobody in New Jersey talks that way. No, they absolutely do not.)
My mother and father met there, in their late teens, before World War II. Their parents lived on the same block just two houses apart. Both of my parents were born elsewhere, but even while we were thousands of miles away, Newark and its environs was still "home."
My parents and siblings returned to that part of the country in 1969,at the end of my father's military career but I never lived there again after 1951, when we moved to Maryland, the first in a long string of other places to live, both in and out of the U.S.
Which means, of course, that everywhere I've lived in those years was someone else's hometown.
Washington, D.C.; Tripoli, Libya; Lincoln, Nebr.; Aguadilla, Puerto Rico; Biloxi, Miss.; Yuba City, Calif.; Burns Flat, Okla.; Albuquerque, N. Mex.; Champaign, Ill.; Platteville, Wis.; Moline, Ill.; Rock Island, Ill.; and now Marshall.
And there are many other places I've visited for shorter periods of time, mostly on business trips, but long enough to have conversations with the people who live there.
One thing many of the occupants of nearly every one of those hometowns have in common is their unrelenting criticism of where they live.
I call this the "Notre Dame Syndrome" after a resident of that city told me very confidently one day that South Bend, Indiana, was a "lousy place to live," and Notre Dame a "second-rate school." He'd lived there all of his life and he was quite sure there wasn't a more awful place on earth. But still he lived there. And he's probably still there, and still complaining.
It would be far from the truth to say I loved every place I lived. I particularly didn't care for Biloxi, mostly because the summer weather there is so terribly humid. How humid? Leave a bowl of potato chips on the kitchen table in mid-July and you can tie knots in them an hour later -- that is, unless the cockroaches, who thrive in the humidity, haven't already carried them off.
And Burns Flat -- well, it was an awfully small town in 1969, with only 250 people. It's gotten quite a bit larger since then, but it's still very small at a population of only 1,800. But there were some beautiful things to see nearby, including Foss State Park.
Maybe it's because I'm a relative newcomer -- I moved here three years ago -- that I don't find much to complain about here in Marshall.
For one thing, my mother would be quite disappointed if all I did was complain about where I live. She's been gone for almost three years, but I know she would want me to follow her lifelong lead and make the most of where I am.
"Life's a lot easier that way," she said. "Complaining about it won't change it and it sure doesn't make it better."
And there's something else, too, that I think should be pointed out.
There's progress here in Marshall.
No, you say?
Open your eyes, please.
In the health and safety areas, Fitzgibbon Hospital completed a major expansion last year, and has begun work on a cancer center. The ambulance district has a new building and the 911 dispatch center is under construction.
There is a new community center and an expanded airport that can handle larger aircraft.
ConAgra has expanded by more than 150 jobs.
Aldi moved to a larger store because of increasing business and a need for more floor space.
There's a new shoe store and other new retail just around the corner from the shoe store. And across the Wal-Mart parking lot, ground was broken on a three-store mini-mall only last week.
Two new businesses are opening on or near the square -- one a donut shop and the other a restaurant/bar. And there's a farmers market now.
Voters approved a project, already underway, to renovate Saline County Courthouse.
And that's just in the last three years.
The recession has fallen very lightly on the shoulders of the people who live here. That could change, but so far, so good.
More good things will happen in Marshall, of that I'm sure, especially if its citizens get together and work for the changes they'd like to see.
Instead of complaining about what we do not have, get up off your, uh, chair and work with what we do have and build on it. Don't wait for the stimulus package to come your way. Don't wait for someone else to start something. The people who live here are the only ones who can make things happen.
I've used this quote from Margaret Mead before and it's applicable yet again:
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
And let me throw in a little Thomas Paine while I'm at it -- "Lead, follow, or get out of the way."
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Kathy Fairchild received a Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration in 1986 from Marycrest College, Davenport, Iowa. She is also a 2003 graduate of the paralegal program at New York University. She moved to Marshall in 2006, following a career of more than 30 years with the world's largest farm equipment manufacturer. She is an Air Force brat and grandmother of four.