Community

Before this ordeal I gave little to no thought about where I lived: my only criteria for a locale was that 1. It was safe for my family and 2. It had a good school system for my children. Residency is interesting in that many people do not have a choice regarding where the training is located, for many you simply accept where you get in: one addresses details like a place to live and community later. It also happens to be the case that many of the more prestigious places to train are located in less than desirable cities: places like The Cleveland Clinic and Mayo come to mind. But even though I gave little thought to the locale when choosing to complete residency here, I was lucky in that the community here has been incredible and integral to my recovery .

—– Chicago —-

We live in a little suburb of Lansing (the home town of Sparrow Hospital) called Okemos. It’s a small, quaint town with a population of about 21,000[1]; many of those living here either work for or attend the local university, Michigan State University (MSU). To put the population of Okemos in perspective approximately 48,000 students attend the university.[2] You may be thinking now, you titled this section “Chicago” and you’re telling me about Okemos. The reason I want to discuss Okemos first is that my wife recently asked me an interesting question as we were in Chicago, walking home.[3] She asked me, “Do you notice any difference between here and home, in terms of the initial reaction you receive?” Her thought process was that because Chicago was a larger city, perhaps the people there would be less surprised to see an obviously hobbled young adult. I did not have to think long about this as my response was, “No, they are caught off guard like everyone else.” The only reason I bring this up is that it doesn’t matter where you’re from or what you’ve been exposed to, we are all human beings who at the core are very similar—it’s very minute changes that make us who we are, that differentiates us from each other. These minute changes can create people as different as Charles Manson and Mother Teresa. Heck, we share 98% of our DNA with chimpanzees. This is also true of communities; what separates a ‘good’ community from a ‘bad’ one is first a question of fit (ie do your beliefs match those of the community?) and boils down to very small differences. Luckily for me these small, almost unperceivable differences result in a community that I would deem a perfect fit for my family and me.

Walking down the street
Walking down the street

—- Okemos —-

Every “Good morning! How are you?” Every open door, even a small gesture like letting a car in when you are driving all adds up. I suppose I am a very superficial person in that I appreciate these (albeit small) kind acts. Now, you could undoubtedly find this in other communities, but the size and people that live here gives it an ideal mix (for me) of a small town with a gentle heart while enjoying the benefits of a larger city (ie a plethora of businesses, great food, and diverse community). There are people who prefer the hustle and bustle of a big city, and people who grow up in and need a town with the population in the hundreds; there is no ‘#1 community’[4], but I can say for me and my family, this community of Okemos perfectly fits our ideals and beliefs. And while these qualities and attributes can be barely noticeable, it is people who perform these acts.

image

In  thinking of Okemos three names come to mind (even though in reality this list could contain 21,000 names): Melissa Cochrane, a mother of one of my son’s best friends at school has shown me kindness I did not think was humanly possible. Even though she is no doubt busy raising her family, she often goes out of her way to check in with me to see if I’m doing okay.   I also cannot separate the community of Okemos in my mind without thinking of another one of my son’s best schoolmate, Wendy Gladhill. Wendy has been a godsend to our family doing thoughtful acts like making us a quilt.[5] She has also helped us out of many jams, as we often call her when a last minute meeting is scheduled at which point we scramble for child care; she never hesitates in imploring us to leave our children with her. I would also be doing Okemos a disservice if I didn’t mention my son’s 1st grade teacher Cathy Staudt. Besides serving her community as a wonderful teacher, she also was an amazing role model for Christian. We would often trade emails as she would update me on my son’s status. Her marvelous teaching not only helped to advance Christian as a person, but it also made my job as a parent infinitely easier as I knew he was getting great guidance at school.

I recently heard a program on NPR where guests give a monologue about their life. This gentleman’s story struck me; he had been through many less-than-ideal situations including: a mugging, a business deal gone awry, and a divorce. He ended his story by saying, “even though I’ve been through so much I never once wanted to move because I knew this city saved my life.” This was touching because for me I cannot imagine living and recovering anywhere else. This community of Okemos has not only given my family and me fantastic things like safety, great food, a great school system, and access to countless numbers of resources, but more importantly to one-of-a kind people. Even though communities are made up of physical things like land, trees, and parks, ultimately it is the people that make or break a locale. Luckily for me, this community of Okemos has amazing people in it.

 

[1] http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/26/2660340.html

[2] http://colleges.findthebest.com/q/2088/22/How-many-students-go-to-Michigan-State-University-MSU

[3] My parents live in Chicago, thus we often travel there to visit as it is only a 4 hour drive away.

[4] The ‘Top 10 Places to Live’ articles makes me laugh, a ‘good’ place to live is different for everyone based on fit.

[5] A quilt that has helped with these cold Michigan winters.

 

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