|The Good Life: People of the Valley, we have a choice|
|June 06, 2013 Lisa Betz|
An exceptional man once said that we have nothing to fear but fear itself. Many of you will know the speaker; it was President Franklin D. Roosevelt, speaking at his first inaugural address.
Most of us would probably agree that the prospect of newcomers moving into the Valley with different cultural norms, perhaps different religions, and even some problems that we donít currently have here, would not equate to the challenges faced by our ancestors just two generations ago during the countryís Great Depression.
And if Americans could take comfort and be inspired by Rooseveltís great wisdom, perhaps we too can take a page out of his playbook when it comes to welcoming people to our Valley when and if the new meat packing plant becomes a reality.
Perhaps my analogy could be considered thin, but I think not. As I see it, the people of the Valley have two choices. We could choose fear, panic, paranoia, and let that energy drive our response to the new meat packing plant, and the people who move here for the jobs it will create. We could to that, yes; itís a choice we can make.
However, if we take this route as a community, it is a given that these newcomers will feel it immediately when they get here. It will be sensed by them in the grocery stores, in the schools when their children interact with the children of longtime residents, and in all areas of civic interaction.
Have you ever walked into a room with many people and had the feeling that something had just happened before you arrived? Have you had that feeling that the air is thick with something you donít understand? Most likely we all have had this experience. We perceive an attitude, an energy and it feels welcoming or it feels resistant or sometimes even negative and hostile.
Hostility toward the newcomers will be felt, sensed, and responded to. How do you suppose they will respond to our negative feelings, attitudes and fear? Do you think it will engender them to value this new home, put down roots, learn about our culture, become involved in our community, and appreciate the people here? I strongly doubt it.
Most likely, our rejection of them would create a rift and a prejudice against the people of this Valley because that is how most people respond to rejection, they either push back or they retreat and create their own protected yet isolated world.
And then there are the young people who, feeling this energy directed at them, become problems in society. Their perspective is, we are outsiders, we are unwanted, we donít matter, and so they will act out and demonstrate that they do matter, and they will make a powerful statement that forces us to recognize them. What kind of statement do you think that will be? Nothing positive, I assure you.
However, if we as a community choose to embrace the newcomers, make them feel wanted and important, yes, we could do that, we could choose to roll out the red carpet and hold a community-wide event that embraces them, find ways to incorporate their music and their cultural traditions into our corner of the world. We could choose to blow them away with our love and our welcoming of them as valuable, desired new members of our community.
We donít have to experience our new meat packing plant the way that Lexington, Neb., did theirs. We can make a plan before the newcomers even get here to show them what kind of people we are here in the Valley. We can demonstrate that we are the very best kind of people, courteous, welcoming and enthusiastic about them being here.
We could extend friendship, try to learn about our differences and instead of being scared to death, letís be fearless, like Roosevelt and his generation. It is our choice.