Saturday, February 1, 2014

How Becoming A Mobile Society Has Damaged Our Communities

Last night I went to a folk music concert which was the launch of a new music venue, Music on Main. Who performed at this 160 people venue? The Kruger Brothers, the ones who have been on Letterman, performed with Steve Martin and Doc Watson, played around the world and, in the next few months will play shows from Alaska to Florida.

Why were they proud to be a part of this show? Why did they fill their concert with stories about the little community of Wilkesboro, North Carolina? Because they have adopted this place as their home, it is not the place of their roots (the brothers are from Switzerland and Joel Lansdberg is from New York) but they have put down roots here, they have dug in deep.

This is the place where the Isoms and others who are developing this venue have staked their claim that this is there home and they want to see it prosper, thrive, they want to bring new life to old traditions and old buildings.

Roots, they can not only benefit that which digs them deep, but in turn benefit that which they have dug deep into. Roots hold things together, help fill the soil with life, encourage other life to come as well, and so many other things. When your roots are dug in deep, you are invested in what is beneath your feet, the health of where your roots are determines your health, the improvement of the soil leads to improvement to yourself.

Recently I have been looking for a rental property to move into, while looking, I have learned of 3 places that have been damaged enough that the owners don't even want to show me the place until they can clean it up and fix the place. And in general that seems to be the renters mentality, “This place isn't really mine, so I don't need to take care of it.” There's no sense of ownership, there's less a sense of responsibility towards a place when you know you can just pick up and leave.

Well, I think this mentality has also developed in the minds of “mobile” people who move from place to place. They treat the communities they live in as a rental property. What do they care about the future of that community if they will be leaving before that future comes to pass? Why should they pay high taxes, invest themselves and their money in making improvements to a place that they will leave?

And so people live in places with the mindset of getting out, they don't dig their roots in. This is bad for the community but it is also, in turn, bad for the people who live like this. Because they don't dig in, don't invest themselves in getting to know their community, don't allow themselves to care for it, they get a shallower experience of that community, don't get to experience everything the community really has to offer, which leads to a worse experience overall and they think some other place will be better, so they move on.

Deep down I think most people still know that most things really worthwhile, of real value, take time and effort to develop and maintain. These things need nurturing to prosper and this applies to the community you live in as well. It is partly up to you to make the community you live in worthwhile and valuable; if you nurture it, it will in turn become a place which can nurture you.

Those behind Music on Main have committed to putting on 20 something shows in the course of the year. I believe the overall genre will be folk, because The Kruger Brothers and others have decided to make the claim that Wilkesboro is the “Heart of American Folk Music.” Some shows will be open mic, many will be local artists (which we have lot wonderful talent, so don't equate “local” with “not very good”), and some will be pretty big time folk groups (which we will get here with the help of the Kruger Brother's friendship).

As I said before, the idea behind these shows is to bring new life and breath to North Wilkesboro and Wilkesboro. To get our name more on the map and show the world what we have to offer.

Wherever you live, look in the nooks and crannies, up to the rooftops and in the basements, look on the sidewalk and find what it is you love about that place. Then nurture that love in yourself and put effort into making that thing or place more lovable and share it with others. Maybe you'll someday find your roots dug deep, your community more strong, and your head held more high because you are confident that what is beneath your feet will be there for you, because you have been there for it, have nurtured it and made it strong.