I am a forecast enthusiast. Find me spending my fifteen minute breaks perusing accuweather.com for the latest on trending highs and lows, totally geeking over the National Weather Service’s thunderstorm predictions, or pouring over the Long Range Weather Report through the Farmer’s Almanac (they forecast a whole YEAR in advance). If you know me well, you will also be aware of how many of my own stories I can read into horoscopes, how much real life I can find in my candle-lit tarot card readings, and my overwhelming desire to speak to a serious medium someday. From the birthday morning I opened my first magic 8 ball, I have found all of my life’s threads being tugged–sometimes gently, sometimes with a force–by the wonder of what comes next, by the magnetic pull of not quite knowing.
What more magical a word can you find in the English language? “Tomorrow.” 24 whole hours that haven’t even happened yet, an entire day waiting to be eaten slice by slice, minute by minute. As a Transplant, tomorrow can be extremely important. Tomorrow could be the day that we find our favorite spot in the park to sit and read. It could be the day that we drive to the grocery store on the other side of town and don’t get lost. It could mark the point at which we find ourselves calling this place home. As I enter into my 5th year of living here in Lancaster, I am forever thankful of the endless possibilities tomorrow brings, and I am more interested now than ever in trying to make sure those possibilities exist for all of our community.
When I first moved here with my fiance, we were renting a fantastic two-bedroom apartment on West Chestnut Street in an old, Victorian house, and, truly, I have yet to find a more lovely couple of blocks. The streets are tree-lined, there are wrought-iron fences lining secret-garden-esque front yards, and just about everyone will say “hello” to you. I remember looking at Aaron, maybe a week after having moved in, and saying “we have to actually buy a house here someday.” Though there is still a special place in my heart for West Chestnut, setting up camp there isn’t in the cards for us, and that is totally fine. There are other parts of the city. Parts of the city I had no idea existed (and I am embarrassed to admit this) for almost two years.
Last year, I ended up taking a position with a refugee resettlement agency knowing, honestly, very little about the refugee and immigrant populations here. I knew that our city is diverse, and Aaron and I often talked about the sad lack of representation we saw of that diversity downtown among the art galleries, coffee shops, and publications but I, truthfully, hadn’t engaged anyone much outside of my own friend group.
Then I started having conversations.
I started driving my clients from our office back to their houses, still in Lancaster but in a totally different world than what I had experienced since living here. I started asking questions: why was the Congolese family who lived ten minutes from my house afraid to let their daughter walk to school because someone might offer her drugs and, because she spoke no English, also afraid she might take them? Why were the six and seven year-olds I was running into at an after-school program spending the night at Water Street Mission? Why was one of the only places that would rent to someone who didn’t have a social security number (having fled persecution in their own country) the filthiest house I had ever seen with only half its light fixtures working? How did these things exist just over a mile from my house on the tree-lined street? To be clear, these situations don’t exist exclusively in our refugee community; these are spaces that generations of Lancastrians have lived in, worked in, loved in, lost in, made do in.
Lancaster is full of so many beautiful things: the parks and open spaces, the oldest continuously operating indoor farmer’s market in the country, the art galleries, the story slams, the bars serving craft beer and cocktails, the front porches, and I am grateful for all of those things. But, I think when we start calling Lancaster home, it is important to try and see the love and life in areas of our community that aren’t often classified as “beautiful” and to think about what “tomorrow” might mean for all of our neighbors. As a Transplant, we bring a unique perspective to a place we haven’t always identified as home base, and there’s tremendous value in that, in the way we forecast the future of the city in which we now live. This is not a call to abandon the love of your favorite coffee shop because I sure have one, and the owner is a dear friend/fellow Transplant! This is not a mandate to disavow Central Market because it’s still one of my go-to grocery stops. This is not a plea to stop enjoying all of the unique places and people Lancaster has to offer. This is an encouragement to walk a new way home, a little nudge to ask your neighbors what they think our community could be doing better, a small challenge to spend some time getting to know parts of the city you might not be as familiar with. This is just a gentle me telling you a story. A story of wondering, asking questions, and always looking towards tomorrow in new ways.
Quick Public Service Announcement:
If you’re new to town, and you’re interested in learning about where we hope to see our community going in the future and adding your voice to the mix, the Lancaster County Community Foundation is sponsoring an event called At The Table this Friday and Saturday during which people all over the county will be hosting small-group sessions to gather over coffee/food/wine/etc. to discuss some of these important issues, among others. It’s a chance to talk about our hopes and ideas for Lancaster, and, as Transplants, we have so much to contribute!
Lancaster Transplant will be hosting a table of our own on Saturday, May 21st from 6-9 pm at Transplant Headquarters. Keep an eye on our Facebook page for specifics/reminders. Also, if you are interested in hosting a table of your own, there is still time to sign up!