It's with deep concern, pride and passion I write these thoughts...
On Labor Day weekend when I was visiting my hometown of East Liverpool, Ohio, I asked my parents to drive through the downtown. I had been hearing about how bad the town has gotten and I wanted to see for myself.
So, after grabbing something to eat at one of the only restaurants left in the downtown … The Hot Dog Shoppe ... we nonchalantly drove through the city. Little did I know, I was far from being mentally prepared. What started as a fun, little drive down memory lane, snapping pics and taking selfies in the middle of the traffic-less street, soon became an emotional experience that has truly struck me in a way that I cannot ignore.
Historical buildings falling apart … Businesses I spent years going to as a kid, now gone … Closed up … Streets covered in filth … from the people on the corner trying to get a fix, to the nonexistent curb appeal ... The whole downtown was like an eerie scene from a gangster movie …
We drove from downtown to uptown near the high school and I saw these signs hanging on a door …
… I got out of the car, snapped the photos and as I walked around and looked down the street, I broke into tears. I got back into the vehicle and my parents, grown adults who are in their 50s, cried with me at the realization of what this particular part of our city has come to.
Drugs. Alcohol. Negativity. Death. Lifelessness. Dullness. Deterioration. Settling. How did we let it get like this? Were we not aware when it was happening or did we just not care?
11,000-ish people left in my hometown … much less than the 22k that were there when I grew up. Dozens of buildings collapsing on the inside and outside. Long-time businesses, from the state line to the Ville, closing doors. People leaving to search for a better life while those who remain, continue to reproduce with the intent to raise children in the same area they continuously complain about … and the only excuses we have? “There’s no money.” … “There’s no people.” … “There’s no opportunity.”... "There's nothing but drugs.”...
Listen … I’m guilty of the excuses, too … all the reasons above are partially why I left ... but let me tell you, where there is a habit, there is money. Where there is a college or university, there is money. Where there is a waterway, there is money … where there are families, there is money … and where there is money, there is money to be made and money to be invested.
What lacks? Initiative … drive … determination … motivation … imagination … belief ... loyalty … maybe, some education, and potentially some resources and yes, a little money, but mostly the previous.
The Real Problem ...
We (apparently) set goals and say we’re going to do all these big things and then something happens … We don’t.
And why don't we? … Because we fall short. We run out of money. The city shuts it down ... There’s no growth opportunity. There're no people. The support systems deteriorate.
Maybe that’s the case on some occasions, but more often than not, the real problem lies in our consistent knack of giving up. We give up.
We lose the momentum ... run out of passion ... we run low on energy ... we weaken. We lose ourselves and get caught up in the statistics and bullying surrounding our attempt to defend our desire for change, whether it be through words or actions, only to fall back into the pit of what the pessimists in the area feed on ... quitting ... We become quitters.
At a time where life already has so many chaotic and depressing circumstances that revolve around giving up, why do we feel the need to beat the dead horse? Why do we all jump on the bandwagon and become negative contributors!?
We excuse ourselves from the equation and vow money to be the only solution to fixing the problem. We blame money and drugs for the issues as a means to camouflage the real problem … our fear of failure, our ignorance, and lack of ambition, self-worth, bravery, and pride … our uncertainty … our loss of hope. We make every excuse possible for the reason the town got in the state it’s in when really, we are all directly responsible.
Some great people still remain in the town and have done some notable things, especially recently, but a significant amount of us walked away and did nothing ... others stayed and did or still do nothing …. and the people who fall in that we category are really the only ones to blame.
Unfortunately, there is no easy, quick fix to the years we've spent killing our city, but there is one thing … There is will ... and when there’s a will … there’s a way.
Lead the Way ...
I met a woman on the street that day who inspired me. She moved to East Liverpool from Indiana to make a better life … Cough. A better life. ... Come again? ... Yes, to make a better life, because where she came from, it was much worse.
She asked about things she could do to get involved in the community and unfortunately, I didn’t have an answer for her … because to be honest, there is no answer … there is nothing…
… Or is there? Is there SOMETHING this woman could do to get involved in the community? CERTAINLY!!! ... But not enough currently.
I started to speak to her about Delray Beach, Florida, a town that was much like East Liverpool at one point, not too long ago ... and explained to her my area of expertise and what I envision for the city and she looked as though a lightbulb went off in her head.
That 20-minute conversation on the streets of downtown Liverpool, across from the well-known Lou Holtz Hall of Fame, got my wheels spinning and gave me an idea … an idea that has been racking my brain ... an idea that is still in the very beginning stages ... but an idea, nonetheless.
I had a trigger go off inside me, and since then, I’ve been ingesting my surroundings in a way I’ve never done before. I’ve been making notes and have been researching subjects I never knew to be of interest to me … and then this morning, I finally found the words to say and wrote a letter on behalf of the city of East Liverpool to initiate big change. I sent this letter to people of authority in high places with hopes that they will be able to assist in my, Ms. Indiana’s and so many people's dreams of establishing a thriving community.
Think about if every single person who has an idea back home wrote it down on paper … created a business plan for their dream … totally excluding the reasons why it won’t work, and attending to the reasons why it will. Yes, at some point, there will be bumps in the road and you’ll have to implement a plan to address any obstacles, but that’s why you mustn't give up. Because what lies ahead is far better than what was left behind. We don’t have to necessarily fix what’s broken, but instead, focus on building the new. Get on the wave. Strive for that change. Wouldn’t that be something?
Use Your Vision ...
See, when I think about East Liverpool, no matter how far away I go or how big my dreams get, I think home … and I think about all of the opportunity I wish I had had as a kid and how the little bit that used to be there no longer exists or exists, but has become forgotten or overlooked, similar to everything else. I can't imagine my children growing up believing there's nothing more to life than the drugs and the negativity we tend to focus on the majority of the time … and I can’t imagine it because it’s truly not the case ... there's so much more to life.
When I think “East Liverpool”, I think potential because that's exactly what I see ... potential ... a potential to grow, to improve, to become better and to fix what needs to be repaired ... I feel pride and passion because I see a HUGE, MASSIVE, COLOSSAL opportunity for positive change and reinforcement, an opportunity for restoring and rebuilding … an opportunity to revive the pride.
It starts with one person … one hope … one dream … one idea … just one … and once you get that one person who truly follows through, there’s a ripple effect. Egos get involved, hero syndrome sets in, and everyone becomes motivated … the “if he can do it, I can do it” attitudes take root, and that’s exactly what the town needs right now … Some more cooks in the kitchen … a few more chiefs.
Lou Holtz is one person ... one person who had a dream ... and look at him now ... a man with countless accomplishments who is responsible for one of the only active monuments in our town that currently still speaks relevance to people nationwide and receives recognition today. Let's follow his example and reroute our energies. Let’s be chiefs.
Reroute your energy ...
Make it your mission to spread positive vibes and ONLY positive vibes.
If we all took the energy we use in gossiping about people and posting on social media about nonsense and instead, started being the epitome of what we desire, started waking up with a grateful heart and the intention to have a better understanding for the opportunities and services our town has to offer, (or with a little brainstorming and effort, what our town COULD offer) maybe there would be a bigger appreciation and better understanding of why and how to do business in the town ... maybe then we wouldn't bash what we hate, but instead, start promoting what we love.
If we had a true understanding of how powerful our thoughts are, maybe we’d start praying a little harder, thinking a little bigger and start becoming a little more compassionate … to ultimately, come together and rebuild the town so we can all experience a better quality of life. Don’t you want that?
People have recently started stepping up and that’s amazing! Records show it’s only a matter of time before someone tries to infuse poison … only a matter of time before we positive thinkers hear an excuse for why something didn’t continue or evolve, or why something further cannot be done. This time, though, we need to stop the poison.
We need to stop blaming money and drugs for the reason our town is in a rut and start taking responsibility and action. Start grabbing the world by the balls and have some purpose. It costs pennies to plant flowers. It’s free to pick up trash or broom a street. It costs NOTHING to smile and lend a helping hand to someone who needs encouragement or needs guidance to get back on the right path. Go to church. Celebrate the little things. Stop acting as if there is no opportunity or potential and go create it.
Revive the Pride!
If you have an idea, run with it … and don’t give up until the job is done. If you’re a person who consistently keeps the good from coming in, try changing your attitude. The town has enough negativity working against the progression—it doesn’t need any more narrow-minded dream crushers … Instead, it needs innovative intellects who believe in themselves. We need more people who are willing to work together to promote positive change in an attempt to make a difference, instead of falling victim to the toxic idea of becoming another drug-related, depressing statistic.
Time is the only thing you can never get back … why not make some good use of it and make a difference? Show your kids and ancestors you have some pride for yourself and your town … Be an adult and provide in a way that money cannot. Children should be taught to have respect for what once was and focus on learning so they can contribute to the efforts and we can all mutually benefit and build on what could be. It takes a village, but with just one dream, one hope, one idea … we can make a difference. Just one.