Love Where You Live

Yesterday morning we attended a breakfast in Danville, featuring an inspiring talk by Peter Kageyama.

Relatively few people would call Danville a great place to live. The unemployment and crime rates are high, while median income and education levels are low. The industries that once sustained the city–textiles and tobacco–are gone. Thanks in part to “brain drain,” the city’s population has been declining for half a century.

But over the past few years especially, we’ve seen a bit of a rebound. There are young people choosing to stay here (they’ve even formed a group they call “Danville by Choice”). Some of the long-abandoned warehouses are being turned into apartments. People are discovering the beauty of the Dan River, long treated as nothing more than an industrial resource. Danville has certainly not turned into Asheville, but there are signs of life now and good reason for hope.

Into this atmosphere Mr. Kageyama spoke, sharing stories of how other cities have revitalized and improved themselves, often through inexpensive citizen-led initiatives. His message is that while it’s OK to dislike things about where we live, we ought also to embrace and enjoy the many reasons to love where we live. (You can view his TED Talk HERE).

I enjoyed the talk and I hope Danvillians take it to heart. I’d love to see Danville reverse its decline and become a better place to live and visit.

For me Danville is “town.” It is vaguely associated with “home,” but it is still city, and I’m country. I don’t feel drawn and attached to it, as I am to this farm and our rural community. Honestly, I think too many people live in cities, unsustainably. The best thing a lot of people in Danville (and most other cities) could do to make it a better place is leave it–not for another city, but for a more rural, sustainable and ecologically-sensible lifestyle. But for all of human history it seems that many of us have been attracted to urban living, in close quarters with lots of other people and more separated from the rest of the natural world. I don’t get that, but I’m in the minority and I suppose it’s a good thing that we don’t all think exactly alike.

As for me, I’m deeply rooted to this place. I have a profound love for the land–and this place especially–that is very difficult to describe and would likely seem weird to people who don’t know that feeling. This is, to borrow Wendell Berry’s words, “the place that is my place.”

So some of us probably have a love for place embedded in us like DNA. We don’t need to hear TED Talks to inspire us to love where we live. But there are many of us who grumble and complain about where we live, perhaps looking happily toward the day we can go live somewhere else (I’ve been in that boat too). In those circumstances it is good to remember that for everything we don’t like about where we live, there are probably dozens of things to love about it.

Just some rambling thoughts this morning. Now off to spend some time with the place I love…