Who are we anyway?
Take a look around Harrison County. Does it look like it always has? I hope not. We, as creatures on this planet, are here to develop more advanced living conditions.
I recently took a friend of mine to a commercial area on the west side of Indianapolis. My friend is a life-long resident of the city and has been pretty involved in its business and cultural life. But this day we opened his eyes to an unrealized new chapter in this Midwest landlocked city. We went to a large Hispanic market first.
Within a single building was the essence of a Mexican plaza. It was alive with almost 100 booths that sold everything from cell phones to little girls’ church communion dresses. The aisles were filled with Spanish-speaking families and music from the stalls selling CDs and videos. Pool tables lined the walls and occupied vacated rental spaces. Men of all ages clustered around these spots concentrating on the current game. We heard no crying or fussing and saw no harsh actions, just folks out on a Saturday afternoon to share a bit of common culture, purchase an item with the flavor of their heritage and greet people with whom they felt a natural bond.
My friend felt that he had been transported to another world with the opening of the mall’s front door. But he hadn’t, really. This is Indianapolis today.
We next went to an International Market. This is a huge grocery store. It was a bustle of people and food items. The shoppers were a real mix of Asians, Hispanics, Indians, African Americans, low-income and upper-middle class gourmet cooks. The variety of foods was just as diverse. We counted five different kinds of eggplant. There were green vegetables we had never seen before and fish we had never eaten. All the food bins were large and banked with produce in the fashion of outside markets I have seen all over the world. Two bakeries sold hot breads that were being cooked in ovens and pots as we watched. I can never resist the appeal of new foods that convince me to try them for the first time. My shopping cart was filled with small plastic bags, each holding a sample for a meal during the coming week.
I can remember the years in Corydon when we had a choice of grocery stores, but they all sold only iceberg lettuce. We didn’t find canned food with Spanish labels in our stores nor could we dine locally in a Mexican restaurant. These were years when Chinese food was found only in large cities, and Harrison County contained few folks who had the pallets for it. I don’t know if we have ever had the benefit of a Thai eatery or an authentic Indian curry dinner.
Who are we in Harrison County in May 2012? Do we really know? Are we like my friend who got so busy doing what he had done for years in his own area of concern that new life popped up around him and he didn’t even notice?
The Internet has brought our young people into an everyday community with an expected variety of things to do and places to go. If we want to attract them to stay in Harrison County after they complete their education, we better make it an enriched place to live. They do not want only iceberg lettuce on their salads. They want the whole gamut of offerings they have seen elsewhere, not just in food but in programs, activities and neighbors.
As we plan for the future, we need to really take stock of what we are today as a community. All of us need to know the facts and what they mean to our everyday lives. We can’t just leave this to the experts to study. What will our schools need to provide in the future? What kind of shopping will appeal to those who want to call this home? Will we have entertainment that speaks to our residents? Will we have medical services that meet the needs of our unique mix of citizens? How will we build cultural institutions that attract and serve our new demographics? Will our roads, sewer systems and law enforcement agencies meet our needs? Where will people build homes, and how will they live and pay for them? Where will our future bread winners earn their livelihoods?
Let’s open our doors to contemporary Harrison County and walk right in to action that sets us on course for tomorrow.