What is the city but the people that live in it?
I’ve always been drawn to the country. To wide open spaces. To fresh air and bright skies. To simpler life. But life is not all that simple, is it? Whenever I find myself in a big city, I find myself drawn to the noise and the culture, like a moth to a flame I can’t seem to stay away… so enchanted by the very nature of what makes a big city so big… it’s people.
Whether it be on a crowded subway or streetcar, or in a line at a hotdog vendor, or walking the long streets… there are people everywhere, going about their every day lives, as if no one else was there at all. Everyone keeping to themselves, tuned in to social media, attached to music players and smart phones and completely tuned out of the world around them. I used to be one of these people. On my way to work or school. Plugged into my favourite tunes or napping, head lolling, swaying with the movement of the bus.
I found myself walking down Bloor street, the entire length of the west side of the city, about seven kilometers. I walked as Bo slept in the stroller. The air was ice cold and my hands were frozen. Somewhere along the way I collected a stray stranger. I talker, hopped up on who knows what and searching for companionship. He was harmless, and friendly. He wanted to sing me his songs. He kept pace with me for about 15 blocks. He sang me his songs, they were songs of peace and kindness, songs about the city villages, songs about being together in a world where we are encouraged to push each other away. We left him at a park where he veered off to jam with some other guys with dreadlocks and spliffs, surrounded by birds and kids with skateboards. When he left he wished me peace and kissed my cheek and then laughed, as if the world was lifting around him. He winked and said, ‘we all just gotta do what we gotta do… or do we?’ shrugged his shoulders and smiled with big white teeth. He sauntered off into the trees, lifting his jacket collar up over his shoulder length dreadlocks. I could hear him calling out to friends… calling out to the world.
Cities are home to so many people. Where worlds and cultures and opinions and lovers meet, and live side by side. There is something beautiful about being where there are no people to trash the place, no one to judge you or hurt you. But there is something even more beautiful about being surrounded by thousands, who are making it work, in harmony. There is so much more good than there is bad.
No where is perfect, but there is beauty to be found… wherever you may go.
Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how.
(Edward T. McMahon)