Dear Columbia: A Love Letter to Our Community
I love you. I’m sorry it took me 28 years to tell you that.
My relationship with you is complex. I moved here at four, and your nature became the setting for years of childhood adventures: forging Hinkson Creek and the surrounding woods, cruising down the Katy Trail, observing wildlife at Eagle Bluffs.
Growing up in COMO (although, I actually hate that acronym in a fingernails on a chalkboard sort of way), life was good. Then, as I got older, you started to feel too small, too easy.
When I could get out, I did. Somehow, I also kept coming back. Not out of yearning for home, and always with a clearly defined expiration date. Do you have a vortex with a gravitational pull that spans far beyond our city’s, county’s, or state’s borders?
And yet, here I am, getting ready to complete my fourth consecutive year of living in the middle of the middle—the longest I’ve been back since moving away at 18.
Growing a business here showed me a new side of you that I had been completely oblivious to as an angsty teen/lost young adult. It's like the lesson so many of us have to learn at some point. One day we wake up to realize that our homo parentiens aren’t a special subspecies, but are in fact humans, too.
I run a locally-based, globally-serving business. We work with people on every continent except for Antarctica. I have the privilege to travel to and speak at places all over the world. It’s this journey as a business owner through which I’ve finally let our relationship grow and flourish.
As I began to weave my way through the confusing and complicated landscape of business, I was constantly surprised by the resources you had to offer: mentors, courses, events, spaces, and so much more. I discovered you’re a place where competitors can be friends. You reassure us that there is room for everyone.
I’m sorry I was embarrassed by you when people from other places asked me where I was from. Now I stick up for you when they respond with criticism and judgement. I’m proud of you. I’m inspired by you. I’m comforted by you. I’m grateful to be here together at this moment.
In lots of places people don’t make kind chatter when they’re standing in line. Thanking clerks at the grocery store is startling. Smiling as you pass by strangers on the trail is odd. Avert your eyes. Stay in your lane. Protect your bubble. But not here.
It’s a scary time for all of us, but you shock me with your compassion and commitment.
Restaurants are losing money and still provide free food for low-income children, medical warriors, and recently laid-off service workers. A distillery is transforming their gin into hand sanitizer for community offices and members. Our government is responding swiftly and responsibly to help flatten the curve. Neighbors reach out to provide help for the elderly, the housebound, and the lonely.
The world feels more connected than ever. It’s beautiful to see people from around the globe come together. But through this crisis, I also feel an increasingly deep, warming love for the place that I get to call home.
We’ve got this.
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