“There are trees,” exclaimed a cousin from Poland on her first visit to Detroit forty years ago. “Of course, there are trees,” my aunt responded. It seems, at that time, people in Poland were being told that all the trees in the U.S. had been cut down. This cousin had expected a wasteland. Throughout her visit, she kept up a running commentary on all the trees, flowers and animals she saw, trying to reconcile her pre-trip expectations with what she was actually seeing.
I was reminded of that incident when a friend and I drove into Detroit the other day. “There are buildings,” she exclaimed as downtown Detroit came into view. “Of course, there are buildings,” I responded. It seems that the message about Detroit these days is some kind of post- apocalyptical shell of a city.
In reality, downtown Detroit is thriving—buildings, culture and entertainment. (My first assignment for my new job was attending the annual dinner of the Michigan Women’s Foundation—700 people at a downtown convention center.)
I won’t claim that Detroit has no issues. Like many older U.S. cities, some neighborhoods are deeply troubled, with abandoned houses dotting the landscape and residents struggling to retain a sense of community.
As with most places, though, Detroit has strengths and weaknesses, assets and deficits. I tend to focus on the assets of a place. Knowing that no place is perfect, I accept the imperfections as part of the package. I seek out the good things a city has to offer. This has been true for me wherever I have lived, and I think it has helped me get to know cities, to appreciate what they have to offer and to enjoy what is available.
I am looking forward to getting reacquainted with Detroit, the city where I grew up, the first city I loved. I am grateful for this opportunity to fall in love with Detroit for a second time.
Yes, there are buildings in downtown Detroit and there are still trees—and now this is the place I call home.