Whenever I travel to another city, I inevitably compare it to my own. Almost always I find the new city more attractive and exciting than Virginia Beach. Sure, I know. The old adage about greener grass tends to color my perception. After all, I have lived in this city since I was ten—four-plus decades. When my parents first moved here, the population was about 45,000. Now it’s ten times as much. I often wonder whether the addition of all these people/houses/shopping centers/schools/roads/etc. has made Virginia Beach a better place to live.
I’m not so sure. Back in the day, the folks who lived in Virginia Beach had roots here. Now it’s pretty unlikely that the people you pass on the street were born in the area and extremely unlikely that their parents were. Most of us aren’t historically connected and, as a result, lack passion for this city, not to mention a vested interest in making it more livable.
I just returned from a trip to Cleveland, the polar opposite of Virginia Beach in this respect. There people live in the same neighborhoods where their parents grew up. They go to the same church. Their children play on the same street and attend the same schools they attended. These Northerners have developed deep-seated relationships with neighbors, the proprietor of the corner store, the sandwich maker at the local deli, the guy hawking fresh vegetables at the farmer’s market. As often as not, entire extended families still live within a few minutes’ drive of one another. People stay connected.
That’s not to say good relationships don’t exist in Virginia Beach. Some of my best friends date back to my early school days, and I value the friendships I’ve formed over the years with those whose paths I’ve crossed. Yes, there are good people in our area, but somehow it seems we are miles apart, literally and figuratively.
Part of the problem is, I think, our tendency to become insulated by technology. Whether it’s a cell phone, a Blackberry, an iPad, or laptop, we often erect barriers between us and the outside world. First we lost face time; now, with texting and emailing, we are losing voice time. Maybe the day will come in the not-so-distant future when we can communicate telepathically in an instant halfway around the world. Then we might as well dig ourselves a hole and climb in. We’re losing touch with each other and with the world around us.
In addition, we are losing our sense of community. And this is what I think is missing from the city where I live. People lack a relationship to this corner of Virginia, to this place we call home. Even worse we make little, if any, effort to improve the region for future generations. People seem to be concerned only with what’s in it for them—instead of establishing long-range goals that will benefit our kids and our kids’ kids.
Mind if I climb up on my soapbox? I think we’re standing at a crossroads. It’s time to commit to the future viability of this region. We need to take the long-range view on issues such as public transportation and green energy. In Cleveland an organization exists called Entrepreneurs for Sustainability. It has 8000 members, and that’s only in Northeast Ohio! I was blown away by the passion and the vision of the people I met there. Where is that vision locally?
Of course, first you have to find the entrepreneurs. We’re here, but we’re scattered like autumn leaves. I would love to see a gathering of like-minded business people, who are interested in more than personal gain. We need to become passionate about creating a region that has more to offer than rec centers, nice beaches, and country roads to cycle on. We need to care about the future of this place. We need to care about each other. Finally, we need to support local businesses because we are the life’s blood of the community.
Think about how you fit in here and how you can invest your time, your money, your passion into making this a better place to live. Then take action.