Updated: Jun 3, 2018
I live in a small midwestern town called Muncie, Indiana where back in the 1920s-1930s a husband-wife sociologist team, Robert and Helen Lynd, conducted the Middletown Studies. The word "middletown" was meant to suggest the average or typical American small city.
Muncie: the once upon a time typical American small city. And sadly, maybe we still are that. So many of our small cities look just like Muncie now. Shuttered, abandoned factories thanks to jobs sent overseas, concrete parking lots giving way to nature and, pictured above, beauty queens far past their prime shout constant accusations of all that has been allowed to be lost.
But then on the curb right in front of this typical American small city decaying house are these violets forcing their cheerful petals through the hard and the unwelcoming. They grow where they're planted, and they were planted here, by the wind or a bird or some other force of nature. Beauty amidst the harsh. Hope next to despair. Life next to death.
My 59 year-old-looked-70-hopelessly-alcoholic-next-door-neighbor Rick, was found dead in his house two days ago. I'll save you the horrific details and simply say, "It was an alcohol related accident." A neighbor who lives in another apartment in the same house knocked on my door to tell my husband and I the news, to tell us that he'd lost his friend and to shiver with that reality chilling his bones. I watched the emergency vehicles rolling up as I tried to comfort the man on my porch, now realizing the sirens I'd been hearing were meant for hopeless Rick. I came inside and had a good cry, not because Rick was a dear friend. I don't think he had the sobriety to even recognize a friend. I grieved because of how sad the whole story truly is, and how common.
I was painting a scarf at the time, trying to make something beautiful come to life amidst the ugly that surrounds me. What was once a thriving and prosperous city is now bursting at its seams with stories like my neighbors'- the living one and the dead one- and I don't think Muncie's status as a typical American small city has changed. I honestly don't blame hopeless Rick for crawling inside a bottle and refusing to come out. I wish he hadn't, but it wasn't my life to live. I want to be life-giving to others, offering hope and beauty in exchange for despair and decay, especially amidst all this death. Rick couldn't see the violets. Can you?
This is where I'm planted. This is where I'm growing. I want to be a cheerful violet.
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