Shayne Looper: What makes your community a good place to live?

Shayne Looper

Imagine you are having lunch with an old friend who has recently begun working out of his home and is considering relocating his family to a smaller community. He mentions three or four towns that he and his family have visited and are considering. 

You say, “Why not here? Besides, it would be great to live close to each other again.”

He explains that, while he enjoys your company, there are other factors to be considered in making such a decision. He abruptly stops in mid-sentence and says, “Yeah, OK: You be the agent. Sell me on your community.”

What would you tell him?  What makes your community a good place to live?

It takes you a moment to put on your salesman hat. You make a mental list of community assets, prioritize them, and then begin ticking them off for your old friend.

Where would you begin? How would you market your community?

Would you tell him that your location is ideal for business? That your town is framed by interstate highways? That it lies between major metropolitan areas? That there are both big city and regional airports within a couple of hours?

Perhaps you would go on to talk about the natural beauty of your community. The entire county is dotted with lakes. There are some delightful parks. Country roads stretch for miles through picturesque farms and woodlands. The main thoroughfare is itself a national historical heritage trail.

Or you might talk about entertainment options: the historic opera house with its professional summer theatre and community theater programs. Or about the summer music series. You might mention the variety of restaurant options. 

Are you beginning to run out of selling points? I would just be getting started.

I don’t think I would try to sell my friend on our Michigan community’s natural beauty. If that is what he was all about, he would move to the Rockies. 

If he wanted music, he would move to Cleveland or New York or Chicago. 

If he wanted business-friendly infrastructure, Detroit is nearby.

As important as all these things are, they do not get at the heart of a community. What are its people like? What do they value? Do they care about others?

If I wanted to show my friend what the heart of our community is like, I would take him to the Presbyterian Church on a Thursday evening, when doctors and other healthcare professionals volunteer their time to meet the needs of the uninsured.

I would take him to the many churches that, at times throughout the year, transform their buildings into homes for the homeless. He would see for himself  how people in our community express concern for strangers. And then he would see how strangers are transformed into friends.

I would take him to the area food pantry and introduce him to the volunteers who hand out thousands of meals a year to people in financial need. I would tell him about how young mothers receive needed baby items at the crisis pregnancy center. I would introduce him to some of the Habitat for Humanity workers who sit together in the restaurant on Thursday mornings.

What makes a community most attractive is its people, especially those who give their time, energy and heart to helping others. A disproportionate number of these people, it seems to me, come from our local churches – a fact that calls for contemplation.

When I finished my sales pitch, I would invite my friend to become a part of our caring community. I would look him in the eye and say: “Don’t just make money; make a difference.” 

I might say the same thing to you.

The Daily Reporter