TRUE MEASURE OF A COMMUNITY
April 22 2007
To the Editor of the Sheboygan Press:
You kindly welcomed two New Englanders to these shores last summer and as first impressions are important I thought I would share mine with you. Once we decided to follow opportunity to the Midwest, I confess to consulting a map to find Wisconsin in the first place. I would like to personally atone for wrongly imagining that Sheboygan must have similar attributes to the similar sounding “New Joy-sey.” Forgive my uninformed perspective.
From the New England perspective, Wisconsin lies somewhere near the Arctic Circle and the weather must be really horrible there. I can say now the weather is about the same as New England and there are plenty of other differences we have come to celebrate.
Sad to say that Wisconsin rarely entered my young Yankee consciousness. It did happen occasionally when the Packers were on TV. As a young Packer fan, I imagined Green Bay to be a remote ice-covered city with Bart Starr as its leading hero. I know I had some of this right.
Milwaukee remains pretty murky in the New England mind, although we share the same passion for beer. Beer dulled the pain of so many losing Red Sox seasons and is no doubt helpful here. New England must be a little murky in the Badger mind as well, someone asked us if Connecticut was on the east coast. OK. Fair is fair.
Now happily situated here in Sheboygan and regularly getting the ‘blue bag’ out to the curb on the right day, we have endured our limit of conversations with those back home who over-reference “cheese heads” or who wonder why on earth we would come here. It seems I think it best at this point to keep them in the dark.
Other than our family members, we left behind a diminishing sense of community values, baked beans, bad air (from cars), traffic, general indifference, lobster rolls, littleneck clams and hills.
And this is what we have already gained: genuinely kind neighbors with real honest-to-goodness values; an unreal work ethic; incredible artisanal cheeses; a very special Mead Library; sunrises over Lake Michigan; Leinies and brat frys; walleyes and fish fries. Removing our family members from the equation, we feel blessed to have traded up.
It has been humbling to discover foliage, cranberries, quaint towns and even a popular ‘cape’ (Door County) actually exist in the Midwest.
And it has been serendipitous to walk along the beautiful Lake Michigan beach here without having to pay the Connecticut shoreline’s $40-per-family-member-to-walk-here every summer fee.
We amuse ourselves each time we discover any noticeable change in topography (OK it’s pretty flat here…) that reminds us of a real New England hill. We hope to hike in the Kettle Moraine one day, but to us hikes always mean some significant change in elevation.
All kidding aside, the real measure of our new community is block after block of well cared for properties, and kind people who have time for each other and who share their time and talents for the common good.
There is much to love about New England and in a way it will always resonate as home for us. I hope one day you experience its natural beauty in places like the Berkshires or on Block Island or in any of its myriad picturesque towns and villages. Back east though, hardly any of our neighbors knew each other. It is blissfully different here. One night, I was coming home from work dreading the time after dinner that would be necessary for me to repair the old snowblower in order to clear the driveway after a recent blizzard.
I turned the corner and to my wondering eyes the driveway had already been cleared of snow! My joy turned to guilt when I imagined my wife may have borrowed a snowblower and done it herself (gulp). I walked inside to learn she hadn’t — our wonderful new neighbors had! Incredibly, another neighbor had delivered some delicious homemade soup and to top it all off there was a welcoming gift of homemade cookies from yet another!
How happy we felt to have arrived here.
So you see, it really isn’t a “horse apiece.” There is much good to celebrate in Sheboygan beginning with the Midwest’s firm grasp of values, of a community working together, and remembering that the simple things in life are really everything. There are many things we wish were different in our country today, however there is so much about Sheboygan that we hope will always stay the same.
Posted from WordPress for BlackBerry.