“Why not move to Columbus, it’s so much better there?”
These are the words I frequently hear circulate throughout Scioto County. I lost count years ago. In fact, not just with Columbus, but replacing any major city.
My response has always been “The easy thing to do is move away, the bold thing to do is take action.”
Common complaints I heard are – “There’s nothing to do, there are no jobs, and there’s a drug problem.”
Living in Appalachia we can boast having an excess of outdoor and nature activities close by to us such as parks with trails, camping, fishing, hunting, etc. There are many community based events organized by local businesses and organizations. We have countless things to do here, you must explore and stay connected. Not to mention a less stressful all around way of living. It is refreshing not worrying about traffic every morning and evening on the way home from work, desperately trying to find and pay for parking everywhere you go. When exploring the crime map on trulia.com, violent crime is drastically lower in Scioto County when compared to similar sized cities and especially larger ones. People in cities must put up their guard and be alert, and studies have shown this affects happiness and mental health. This is known amongst psychologists as urban stress. Us rural folk take many luxuries for granted. Doing something does not mean spending money. Indeed, there are many things to do in a city, most of which all cost money. The cost of living is drastically higher in a city and often does not leave you with extra money for entertainment. As the song goes, “The best things in life are free.”
Often, I have visitors from out of town I keep entertained and I have never found this to be difficult task. I always start off with a tour of the floodwall murals so they can see some history and then drive by many of the local businesses, points of interest, riverfront, etc. By the end, they always comment “wow, what a nice place to live.” I never highlight any negativity but show a proud past and a bright future. With no preconceived notions, out of towners never start talking negatively about our town. Unless of course they have been unfortunate enough to read one of the many poorly reported stories by national media outlets covering the area more recently. The bad attitude and repeated phrases such as “this place stinks” comes from us, learned at a young age from the words and behaviors of our peers.
A man who loves his community and has the right attitude started a monthly concert series in Portsmouth with the support of many businesses who also love their community. Together they have brought some of the greatest talent in the country to perform, and it is always free to attend. Now many of these business owners are supporting the community by sponsoring various fun things to do and community improvement projects. Many local businesses such as restaurants are gems because of their friendly family-run atmosphere. Lastly, a loving and passionate woman in the area could no longer see her friends and family being overcome with drug abuse and overdose. Did she run away and hide? No, she started a counseling center where she has helped hundreds of families built themselves up, get out of the dark and into the light. She has saved numerous lives.
What is the difference between the men and woman I have mentioned and those of you who might still be thinking negatively? They did not grumble and wait for anyone else to act or contemplate moving away, but rose and created something. They created a job, created something to do, and helped improve a community problem head on. They created something of value for us all to do and to grow as a community. They are men and women to be supported and praised. Now it is up to us to be supportive of current and new ideas, and be welcoming to creativity and change. This is the only way to improve our demeanor because revitalization starts with mindset. Sometimes getting out of the bubble and into the world will often help us realize how great we really have it. If we believe in our area, we will discover it is one of the best places to live. There are a million reasons why.
In sum, healing via community building starts with vision and perception. I would encourage us to change our attitude and make a difference by using positive language. What is the point of negativity in a community yet never acting to help? There are many ways to get involved and volunteer. Naturally not everyone may have the means and the ends to help, but at the very least take pride in where you live. What can you do for your community today?
Justin Pizzulli is the former Ohio Field Director of Generation Opportunity. He has contributed to newspapers such as The Hill.