When my power went out…
Two nights ago, my power went out. For those that have been through this experience, you know it is a big nuisance. However, the clarity I received through that night inspired a metaphor for Detroit and similar cities that was truly profound.
After I finished grocery shopping, I headed home and got caught in a really bad thunderstorm to the point where I had to put on my bright lights and drive really slow. When I got home, my roommate and I pulled up at the same time. He couldn’t open the garage and after we both tried our clickers, someone yelled out of their window to let us know the power was out. Great. I went to put away my groceries and after I changing clothes, I called my sister to see if her power was on. Thankfully it was and I hung out over there and came back home later that night. The following segments highlight my epiphanies.
The power goes out
My story wasn’t particularly deep until I noticed that when I left for my sister’s home, about a fourth of the residents in my complex were in their cars, probably headed to see the game or go to someone else’s house that had power. Then it hit me. This is the story of Detroit with the steady exodus of residents leaving the city while the power is out. To be clear, I think power in a literal sense applies to quality education, health care, and jobs. In a figurative sense, I think electricity represents hope, power, and vision. So when I use the word power, I am coupling the aforementioned literal and figurative definitions.
So what happened as soon as I finished putting up the groceries? I called up my sister to see if I could hang out there. When I got in my car to leave, it was interesting to see how many people were leaving the same time I was. It was interesting to think about the privilege I had to leave at a moment’s notice. My sister lives about ten minutes away and knowing her power was on made me more secure.
In the same way, so many people in places like Detroit are experiencing a figurative power outage but most, if not all of the people they would call on to help are going through the same power outage. To be clear, I don’t think leaving Detroit is the answer. Rather, the ability to reach out to someone nearby that can share some of the power you lack is I think one of the lynchpins of building a real community and reviving our urban centers.
Towards the end of the game when I figured the Pistons would lose, I called my roommate to see if the power was on. He was at a friend’s house watching the game so he didn’t know. I hung up frustrated because I thought (or I wanted) him to stay at home to let me know when it was OK to come home. How many of us want to help from afar, making sure we keep tabs on if and when the schools improve, well-paying jobs surface, or otherwise waiting on other players to make the necessary investments in infrastructure, city services, etc.?
I couldn’t stay at my sister’s house so I had to go home. As I pulled into my complex, I can’t tell you how happy I was to see the lights on in my neighbor’s windows. All the inconvenience of the night evaporated. So when I think about my beloved city, I know that all the griping and hopelessness will seem like a distant memory once we are willing to come back. The power that places like Detroit desperately needs is you. What are you waiting on?
Stay up fam,