Having attended the Positively Storm Lake meeting a few days ago, I find myself looking at things a little differently.
What do we mean by "positivity?"
From time to time, we, and probably every news source, get people on our doorstep demanding that only "good news" get reported. It is our nature to resist such a premise. Our job is to report news, and tell people what they need to know.
It might surprise some people to learn that we do not relish bad news. It is not fun to report on a crime trend, or poverty, struggles for equality, people fighting serious illnesses, an environmental spill, whatever it may be. Believe it or not, a writer, if they are worth anything at all, feels a little of the pain of the people they write about, just as they feel a little of the joy telling a story when something wonderful happens.
Sometimes, things we would rather not read, need to be written. Issues do not get solved by ignoring them. People need to know what is happening around them.
For me, it is never a good day to come to work and find a police report on something serious and sad that has happened in our community on my desk. What we really want is not to hide it; it's to prevent it from happening again.
Troubles happen in any city. They should be reported, but they also should be kept in perspective, not sensationalized, and not allowed to overwhelm all that is good.
I will guarantee you this, and you can visit our archives if you don't believe it. There are many, many more stories of wonderful, uplifting, heartwarming, positive things that are happening in our community than there are negative. I've told young reporters is that you don't have to go looking for bad news, it will find you. It's the good that you need to work for.
Great projects, volunteer efforts, the arts, an endless stream of wonderful achievements coming out of our exceptional schools and colleges, fun events, amazing people, kind-hearted fundraisers, the plus side of diversity, growth and development. It's not a matter of finding something good to write about in Storm Lake, it's a matter of getting to it all. I've been here for a long time, and not once have I run out of those stories on my list.
People help us, and we are forever grateful. They share photos, and call in with ideas, and give of their time and energy to help get those stories the attention they deserve.
I can't promise you only good news. The world doesn't work that way.
But Positively Storm Lake is right. It is time to speak up for our community. If we don't do it, who's going to?
It doesn't mean everything is perfect. It doesn't mean we don't have challenges. It means we're not afraid to stand up for where we come from. If you don't have any pride, honestly, why are you here?
At the meeting, it was suggested that we need to compete with the Spencers and Carrolls of the world. Frankly, I think it's the other way around.
Storm Lake has an amazing resource in its beautiful, glacial lake. Trade that for a cookie-cutter shopping mall or super-expensive condos for rich people? I don't think so.
In a town of 11,000, we have a stellar four-year university and a responsive and effective community college campus, not to mention two complete school districts and an innovative charter high school/college school! How many communities this size anywhere can say that?
We are a hub for all kinds of health and medical services - again, more than could be expected for a town of our size.
Our waterfront parks, our recreation opportunities, our art gallery, our eclectic stock of beautiful old homes in a multitude of architectural styles and eras, our tree-shaded streets, just to name a few, are pride-worthy.
Our events like LakeFest, Star Spangled Spectacular, the resurgent county fair, Relay for Life, Fiesta Latina, Wood, Wine & Blues, again naming just a few, are celebrating.
Storm Lake should also be proud that it has grown, when other rural cities have stagnated. It has added housing, retained a stable economy and a viable downtown. There is more to do, but we have, as they say, good bones.
Storm Lake hasn't done growth in a fancy way. It has done it with solid, honest blue collar jobs, by bringing home some young professionals who are choosing to raise their families here, and yes, though immigration.
I don't know about you, but I'm sick of this town apologizing for diversity, and being put down by outsiders who do not understand it. I'm proud that this town has assimilated hard-working people from all over the world, out to make a better life for their families. My children grew up here, comfortable in a world with all kinds of people, and that is and will be an advantage for them.
How many times have you told people you are from Storm Lake, and they say, "Oh, aren't you afraid?" Afraid of what?
I live on a weird schedule. Often I'm going for a walk or a run on dark streets late at night. In all my years here, not only have I never been afraid, I don't think one person has ever said an unkind word to me out there.
You say hello, you smile, people tend to treat you the same.
Some goofy online article by a guy who have never been here called us a ghetto last year. Right, lakefront property ghetto with countless millions worth of new schools, landmark college buildings, innovate environmental projects, hospital expansion, new townhouses. Where, exactly is the "bad neighborhood?"
Making a new organization doesn't mean everything will ever be perfect or 100 percent positive. But maybe we need the reminder to appreciate all we have, and build on it. Not in an adversarial way, but working with local governments and all the other existing programs.
Do something for me this week. Call it an experiment. One time, tell somebody something good about Storm Lake, talk about something happening here. Or correct somebody who puts your town down. Post one positive thing about your town on social media, or write one letter to the editor. One thing, that's not so hard. Maybe we can even get used to it.
We might be surprised at the results.
Opinion is often a self-fulfilling prophesy. If you talk down where you live, that's what people will see in that place. And if you talk it up, the good things tend to get better.
Let's see what a little positivity can do.