In 1989, I fell into a chance to help Habitat of Evansville organize the largest blitz build in national history. The goal was 21 houses in a week. This would exceed a record set previously in some huge American city – the name of which eludes me now. I did not think it would work.
There were hundreds of reasons a record-breaking blitz build of 21 houses in a week could not work in plain-old-Evansville. We were small. People would not show up. It would rain. Dry wall wouldn’t dry. It was vanity to try. We did not have enough major suppliers. Small suppliers would not be generous. Funding would not materialize. But, as I sat in these small meetings during 1990, I found myself thinking, â€œThis is ridiculous, but I’ll be darned if it will fail because of me.â€? And I was in.
And, you know, the entire tri-state was â€œin.â€? Everyone thought Habitat’s audacious idea was beyond us, but no one was going to be the one who stopped it. Everyone did his or her part. The largest national record holding Habitat Build of the early 1990s took place in Evansville, Indiana. It was amazing.
I believe our community can do anything it sets its mind to do. Blitz build houses, clean up from a tornado, stop a flood, build a park, unite to deliver bold education goals. I believe we know down deep that we can solve our problems together.
Since 1991, I have seen it hundreds of times. There is a sense in the tri-state that, even if an idea is unrealistic, â€œit’s not gonna’ fail because of me.â€? It’s a work ethic, a sense of shared destiny, a sense of community that makes me believe we can accomplish incredible goals. Our community is large enough to have capital to ferret money from under mattresses when we need to, and is small enough so we feel a sense of connection – east, south or west… even across the river.
Not long ago, at work, I was again part of an unworkable plan. There was an abject public property. We started with a desire to plant a few petunias. But then, something took hold. The resolve became to just keep going until someone said â€œno.â€?
No one said â€œno.â€?
In the end, in less than 5 months, with less than 6 meetings, and with no budget, hundreds of people transformed Freedom Plaza Park in downtown Evansville. It was an unworkable goal, but no one wanted to be the one who said no.
Look what â€œyesâ€? can do.
I see it today in grassroots efforts to solve problems not just complain. Work ethic. Unity. Resolve. Local poet Matthew Graham wrote once that Evansville is a town where, during World War II, â€œeveryone got off the bus, rolled up their sleeves and went to work.â€?
I believe in community and I believe that we know, down deep, in Southwestern Indiana, there is no problem we cannot solve.