(Quiet) joy in Joplin.

On the way home from work Wednesday evening I checked the New York Times website on my blackberry, looking to catch up on world and national news after a day of meetings.

That news? For the most part, sobering… and for the most part the same stories that you and I have been watching with various degrees of shock and awe over recent weeks and months. The debt crisis in Europe and debate and doubt about the future of the Euro. Rising skepticism about how Congress’ group of twelve is going at setting straight our domestic debt-ceiling debacle. The continuing battle in Homs and across Syria in response to President Bashar Assad’s repression. Unrest and demonstrations in India against pervasive corruption. And on and on…

But wait! What’s this?

In Tornado-Ravaged Town, School Year Starts on Time.


Joplin’s kids have returned to school, testimony that the city and its people had delivered on the promise they made three months back — to start school on time.

Think about it.

This is good news on many levels.

Let’s start with priorities. The people of Joplin, after the tragedy, picked as their yardstick of normalcy, and their highest priority, getting their kids back in school. They did this for their kids while they’re still living in trailers. Rebuilding their homes? That can wait.

Talk about sustainability. Talk about an investment in the future versus squandering resources on some more temporary concern.

Then there’s creativity. Take too long to build the high school from scratch? Then let’s redo the interior of that empty department store in the back of the mall. Let’s come up with similar makeshift fixes for the other nine schools we need.

How about the jobs?  Think of the construction workers, hard at work on these schools the past three months. And the next group back to work? Teachers in public schools. People being put back to work…and for a good cause.

Gotta like that.

At the local level, in the heartland of the country, there’s still community, shared purpose. You think it was only Republicans, or only Democrats who did this? Only whites? Only men? Do you think it was only U.S. citizens? Or might an illegal alien or two might have lent a helping hand? Was it free of finger-pointing? Happy valley? Probably not. But at the end of the day, they were community. They were family. They did it together.

Public-private partnerships. Was it only government? Only private enterprise? Nope, it appears that the collaboration cut across these lines.

There was outside help. The article cites the donations of computers and other goods from around the country. Apparently, the rest of us haven’t forgotten how to care. Or how to acknowledge help received. Good on all of you who contributed.

Media coverage. And how about the press coverage? Don’t we always complain that they only report the bad stuff? This isn’t the St. Louis Times. It’s the New York Times. They’re rejoicing in the Bronx. They’re dancing in Queens. Around the world.

Analysis/study. And there are some folks who are tracking what’s going on, thinking about it. How many kids showed up? How about their demographics? How about their mental state after the trauma of the past three months? People who care are observing, reflecting, looking into all these things, digging past the statistics to improve the prospects for every one of those young people.

You know what? If we looked in on Tuscaloosa, or along all-those flooded sites along the Mississippi and its tributaries, or out there in the middle of drought country, or in Indiana, we’d find much the same story. Different people. But the same shared values. The same industry and focus. Similar progress. Cooperation. Sharing. People soldiering on.

It’s not just Bruce Springsteen who’s proud to be an American.

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2 Responses to (Quiet) joy in Joplin.

  1. Amanda says:

    I saw this too! Really good to see how that community is prioritizing recovery. May we all take such a long view.

    • william hooke says:

      Thank you, Amanda!

      This story hit a responsive chord with newspapers (print and on-line) and their readers across the country yesterday.

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