What Community Is

August 23, 2015

Once in a while I will be working at the Des Plaines History Center and run across a gem of a photograph or some scrap of archival material that sparks curiosity. Not long after I started working there in September 2013, I happened upon a photo of Rand Park, the one on Miner Street that now contains Mystic Waters Family Aquatic Center.  From YEAR-YEAR it was a park with a pool that attracted young people and adults from all around.

 

The striking aspect of this photo is the amount of bicycles parked on the lawn. All of them appear to be comfortable, mid-range bikes used for getting around town on a summer's evening. They are leaning on their kickstands in rows and clusters. I don't think any of them are locked up.

Photo from the collection of the Des Plaines History Center

 

When I served a six month internship at the Maine State Museum, I tried to ride my bike whenever I could. Hallowell, Maine, is quite bike and pedestrian friendly, with bike lanes and trails and crosswalks. People have a profound respect for themselves and each other in Maine. Even when there are no bike lanes or crosswalks, motorists will stop for you. It was such a relaxing place to live that I stopped locking my bike up. One day I rode to Slate's Bakery and spent enough time in there talking with people that my bike completely slipped my mind.  I even carried my helmet and put it on the chair by my apartment door. The next day my bike was right where I left it outside the bakery.

 

That is what a community is. I don't want to hear any outcries that Des Plaines and Chicago cannot be like that. They can. You just don't think they can, and that's the only reason they can't.

 

Let's work together.

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