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Optimism



I love my town, 

which is my hometown.  I live in a town of about 30,000, which is an inner ring suburb of Kansas City, MO (which P.S. is where the Kansas City that you hear about is located).  It is an incredibly convenient place to live, containing all the basic necessities of suburban living: neighborhoods, parks, schools, churchs, some restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, drugstores, and a smattering of small businesses.  And what we don't have is surely located nearby in the Kansas City Metro area, which is easily accessible from our town, usually no more than a twenty minute drive.  Also the stadiums (Chiefs and Royals) are so close, they are practically in our town. 

I feel a tremendous gratitude to my fellow citizens and neighbors, and also a immense sense of pride in our town.  Disappointingly, my town has some people who regard it negatively, or speak about it with negative connotations.  And we have definitely experienced the spread of the phenomenon of white flight over the years.  Now the make-up of our town is very racially diverse (in fact we rank 6 out of 446 districts in the category of Most Diverse School Districts in MO accordingly to www.niche.com), and we are also fairly economically diverse.  Overall, we rank lower in income levels, perhaps, with 67.7% of our students participating in the free and reduced school lunch program (according to niche.com) compared to 60% of all American children who participate at least once per week.  Our district also qualifies for state and federal funding for Title I- Improving the Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged, or funds that support the achievement of students in areas of low socioeconomic status. 

So, some people see these facts as negatives, or perhaps evidence that living here and/or sending their children to our schools isn't the best choice for their families.  Others see the diversity as a benefit and appreciate the extra funding to our district which provides funding for more staff to provide necessary and quality instruction to kiddos who will benefit from it.

Me?  Well, I don't believe that there is such a thing as other people's children.  I believe that we belong to each other.  That my children are your children and your children are my children.  I try to live out the belief and be a loving, supportive presence in all kiddos' lives that I come into contact with.  So, I fall into that latter group.  THIS IS NOT TO SAY that anybody who chose to move away from my town doesn't believe that about belonging to each other OR that I think they made a bad decision.  I also believe that folks are the experts of their own lives and make the best decisions for themselves based on a multitude of factors and values.  Just for me and my family, my hometown fits just right.

But, my town does get its fair share of doubters and naysayers, and in this era of social media, it has become easier for folks to dish out the negative, forgetting the people experiencing the criticism.  The hashtag #onlyin(thenameofmytown)  had been popping up on social media as a means to illustrate things that folks associate with negatives or dare I say, trashiness.  Folks would comment on local events with phrases like, "That's why I got out of there," or "You shouldn't expect anything better," and  so on.  And it was incredibly frustrating to me, because the town that I lived in, was a part of, wasn't full of negatives.  It was and is full of beautifully diverse families; a thriving, cooperative faith community; funny, fun, creative, kind children and teens; admirable, volunteering older adults; great teachers; beautiful parks; and so much more.  Was it/is it flawless?  No, of course not, humans live here.  But places and the humans who live there shouldn't have their identities defined only by thir flaws.  

And I said as much to another mom in the park one day, and then wondered why somebody didn't get the word out about what a great place our town is to live.  


So I did a thing.  A social media thing, but a thing.  I thought I would virtually gather 30 maybe 50 tops folks in a group on Facebook to celebrate what was great about our town and reclaim that hashtag in doing so.  Here is how I describe our group:

This is a group of people who love Our Town and want to reclaim the phrase "only in (Our Town)." It is a group of people sharing positive things going on in our community, ways to get involved, ways to help, things to celebrate, concerns to pray for. Consider this a grassroots effort to reclaim our town and let it blossom with hope. Please see pinned post to view group guidelines.

 Here is that pinned post:

It was suggested that I set some guidelines for our interactions. While, I don't anticipate any ill-will or abusive behavior, because this group and our community is about building things and people up, not tearing them down, I will go ahead and lay down a framework.
1.) We are a people of, "Yes, and..." We build on each other's ideas, and don't tear people down.
2.) We are a people of gentleness and grace. We know it is more important to live in peace than to "be right." If we don't have something nice to say, we don't say anything at all.
3.) We are a people of tolerance and acceptance. Any overt or veiled abuse toward groups of race, gender-identity, gender, sexual-orientation, religion, or others is NOT acceptable. People who are abusive will be blocked from this group.
4.)If you have an issue, I urge you to be an adult, and RESPECTFULLY address the person with whom you take issue. If you absolutely believe I need to be informed of an issue, you may private message me or (my VBF). Realize as a professional SAHM, I listen to my fair-share of tattling already, and may not make yours my first priority. (My VBF) is a father of 4, so ditto for him.
5.) This is a place to celebrate Our Town and work toward positive change. People are invited to make suggestions for solutions to problems in the community or desired changes. Members of this group are asked to refrain from arguing for arguments sake. It is fine if you hold a different opinion than another, but you MUST express it in respectful ways. Members who continually comment or post in negative or argumentative ways will be blocked. Please see #2 above.
6.) I swear or cuss or curse at times. I think it makes me colorful.  BUT, only in the right time and place (except that time I spilled my coffee at church). This forum is NOT the right place for curse words, which are determined at my discretion, and posts/comments will be deleted if they contain such language.

Most importantly, this group is meant to be hope-filled, positive, and optimistic. It is meant for dreaming and living into our dreams.

 And then we all lived happily ever after, the end.  

OR actually, there were some growing pains, because the groups quickly swelled in numbers (now, 2 years later, we have more than 3,700 members) which meant there was some diversion from my original vision.  I was surprised, not pleasantly, to see how many folks argued to be able to make negative posts, to argue, and to complain.  And when I stood my ground, I was accused, several times, of wearing rose-colored glasses.



Which is ridiculous, because my glasses are obviously more of a blue color.

Just kidding.  I acknowledge that I skew towards optimism, and my outlook is perhaps a little rosier than others, but I have a very good reason for that:

Image may contain: text
I didn't doodle this.
I really believe this is true.  Why or how?  I can't be sure.  Perhaps practicing looking on the bright side, makes it easier.  Or maybe it is like when you get a new car and start noticing all your car cousins on the road.  Or maybe your vibe attracts your tribe.  Or maybe it is karma.  Or maybe it is an energy thing.  I can't be sure, but I am okay with that.  

So, I stood my ground (see below) and rooted our once again thriving group in optimism, and it was totally worth it, because my community is worth it:
Hey guys and gals, I just needed to take a minute and ask us all to pause and breathe together. I invite all to reread the pinned post, and if able, some of the original posts from this group. I can understand disappointment and the desire to complain (just ask my husband), however, the intention that is established for this particular group on FB, a grassroots movement, with administrators who are "mere citizens" and not city officials, is very clear. We are a group to celebrate positive things, the look forward with hope, to revolutionize and reinvigorate Our Town, yes, but to do so in a joy-filled, optimistic spirit, not a spirit that dwells in negativity. Please consider your posts and comments carefully. I know, I KNOW, how good it can feel to vent and how easy it can be to sit behind a keyboard and a phone and type away, letting the moment or a feeling get the best of you. But what we are working on together, as a community, is rising above that. 
We are trying to put out the energy that we want Our Town to represent. Sometimes complaints are super valid and important. The thing is, this isn't the place to share them. If this annoys you, if you feel yourself rolling your eyes at this post, or wanting to tell me to take off my rose-colored glasses, that's fine, you do you. But really consider if you want to be a part of this group. I really want you to be! (You can borrow my rose-colored glasses for a while, if you want.)

And just in case you want to borrow my rose-colored glasses, here you go.



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