I am lucky to live in a village where the word public means something good. The public schools are excellent. The public parks are beautiful. The public library thrives year round.
For most the 19th and 20th century, the public was preferred over the private. We held our public institutions in high esteem and were skeptical of the motives of private enterprises.
In the last several decades the tables have turned. Many look at the private as the driver of progress and associate public things as of less value.
Why does this matter?
We take care of what we value – whether we are talking about a shirt or a public school, our home or our public park. The more we value something, the greater likelihood we will use it well and make sure it lasts.
I spent the majority of last Saturday in one of our parks. My children ran around with their puppy chasing them, took turns asking to be pushed higher and higher by Daddy on the swings and laughed and giggled outside for hours.
Later that day, I noticed a new exhibit in our community center, titled, Know Your Parks. It featured a large map of our village’s park locations. Surrounding this map were pictures of individuals for whom the parks were named.
The park where I had spent the day was named after Thomas Reynolds, President/Mayor of Hastings for over 15 years. The park was dedicated to him in 1924. Three years later he welcomed Babe Ruth there for a special visit to kick off the little league season (How cool is that!)
Another one of our parks was named after John William Draper, credited with taking the first detailed picture of the moon in 1840. And yet another was named after a citizen, Dan Rile, who had served the community for over 60 years.
Why do these names matter?
When we know the stories behind our places, we feel more connected to them and to each other.
Where you stand right now, both figuratively and literally, is the result of all that came before you. Take the time to learn the story behind one of your public places – be it a school, a park, library or even the name of your town itself. Perhaps you’ll learn to love it a little more.