How I can Help the South
I’ve always planned on moving south. My parents spend half the year in Florida, but Florida would not be my choice. Why? Because it is Michigan in July: a hot, sweaty, oppressively humid peninsula. I can deal with some snow, but I don’t like looking at the snow that fell in November the following February. Also, I have gone to Grand Rapids in white out conditions before Halloween.
So, where would I go? I’ll probably go to Virginia for all the heart reasons I’ve given already: my Indian friend’s parents live in Lynchburg and I have a friend that will likely move to the DC area. However, there are other choices. I have thought about Colorado because of Naropa University (America’s first Buddhist-founded university), but Colorado gets as much snow as Michigan, therefore there is no point to that. I may visit there someday, but moving there is highly unlikely. I want something between the Snow Belt and the semi-tropical Gulf of Mexico region. This includes Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, the Carolinas, Arkansas, and perhaps Missouri.
Most of these states are highly evangelical Protestant. Having been one in the past for over a decade, I can blend in. I look conservative (with long skirts and a high degree of modesty). I can speak Christian-ese. Lynchburg reminds me of a Baptist Grand Rapids. West Michigan is the snow-bound Dutch Reformed capital of America. One of our cities is even named Holland. (Calvinists must like getting snowed on.) Grand Rapids is squeaky clean, with people hanging out in Panera’s doing Bible studies. My business school is headquartered there, so I have spent substantial time there. Many teachers and students have last names that start with “Van Der.” Lynchburg felt like a sunnier version of GR when I visited a few times. Lynchburg has Liberty University and GR has Calvin College. When I move, I will be widowed and celibate, making me even more personally conservative. I don’t plan on ever dating again.
Also, we Michiganders are hardy. As Midwesterners, hard work is not a problem. We can deal with snow. We bring our own ice scrapers. An inch or two of snow does not intimidate us or keep us home from work.
In addition, diversity is no problem. It is difficult to look down one’s nose on people getting paid the exact same amount as you get paid while they work on one side of the car and you work on the other. My school’s GR campus is younger and Dutch-er, but my campus is more about people going back to school. Factory rats, welfare mothers, and new immigrants from all over the world share the same classes. For example, the Lansing area had an influx of Sudanese “lost boys.” Michigan has a large population of Muslims, some Sikhs, increasing Asian Buddhists, and all the regular varieties of Christians, with an emphasis on Northern European denominations (Dutch Reformed and old-school German Lutherans). I am accustomed to dealing with a huge variety of fellow-humans.
Part of my passion to help people has been work-readiness. I have been a college math tutor. I love tutoring. My passion comes from seeing so many unskilled people become unemployable in the new economy after they have lost their good-paying factory jobs. Regardless of who is in the White House, a high priority needs to be getting this new underclass of people trained to do the jobs employers have available. Not everyone can get a degree, but I believe most people are capable of doing and being more than they currently do or are. I can help with training and organizational development. I want to help America into this new flattened economy, but that means a serious level of inclusivity. The people you reject for a position due to social factors may have skills your organization cannot do without. There is simply no guarantee that the most qualified person for a position will be white, Christian, straight, or have English as their first language. I want to help a great variety of people into this new economy. That will be so cool.