Friday, October 22, 2010
I am not native to Sunnyside. I'm not even native to Washington state. My parents uprooted our family from the Navajo Reservation (actually, we were never "rooted" there to begin with) just before I turned 13 years old.
After moving four times in those 13 years, Sunnyside, to me, was a pit stop - a brief intermission between moves - because I knew my family was nomads and no town could hold us for long.
The move from Arizona to Washington was strange. Chinle, the town I had left, had one grocery store and one traffic light... a flashing red one. The school was 98 percent Native American and my parents were never able to make grass grow in our front yard... not successfully, anyway.
Then, suddenly, we were in Sunnyside - still, technically a desert, but greener than my previous residence and with a greater amount of cultural diversity.
We moved into a house on Grant Avenue, just a block away from the library - an actual library where I could visit on my own and read to my heart's content! No words could express my nerd-like joy.
But moves are never easy and I spent more time in middle school and high school missing Arizona than I should have. But during that time Sunnyside was growing on me.
I don't know when it happened, but I do know that one day I stopped romanticizing the Southwest and started loving Washington. More importantly, I started to love Sunnyside.
This town and its people has been a constant presence in my life for 12 years now. I have my parents, three of my four siblings and seven nieces and nephews within easy reach. We celebrate holidays and birthdays together, run into each other at the store and more often than not, I meet people who say, "Hey, are you related to (insert name of close relative here)?"
And Sunnyside has been a backdrop for it all, because even when things went awry - through some of the most painful and heartbreaking times of my life - Sunnyside was a continuous positive presence.
After growing up on the move, Sunnyside is the only town I consider home.
So I wish to say, Sunnyside, I am a fan. But as your devoted supporter, there is only one thing that irks me after all this time - the pessimists.
I suppose every town has them, but Sunnyside's seem particularly vicious and determined.
Now, let's be clear - pessimists are not critics. I understand critics - those who see something wrong and use their voice to initiate positive change. That sort of criticism is necessary for growth and development.
Pessimism, on the other hand, is just plain useless.
You see, pessimists will have you believe that Sunnyside has one foot in Hell and the other on a landmine, and nothing short of a Divine miracle can save it.
Because of these naysayers, I have to deal with people who smirk when they hear that I live in Sunnyside. From the reputation these pessimists project, people outside my town seem to think Sunnyside is the hub of chaos and violence, where all things wrong and wicked in the world converge.
But the worst thing about these pessimists isn't their scathing tongues, but their refusal to do anything to change the focus of their ire.
I am a firm believer that if people don't like something, they have two options - shut their mouths or change it.
The community of Sunnyside is not blind to the problems plaguing this town and several businesses and individuals have courageously stood up to take charge of change and there-in lies the opportunity for Sunnysiders to take pride in their community.
Sunnyside High School, the Chamber of Commerce, Sunnyside's Promise, the community center... these are just a few organizations seeking to invoke fundamental change in the community, but they are met and hindered by the pessimists.
But even worse, these pessimists are contagious. Their dangerous homilies infect others and leave a community of dejected and unmotivated individuals.
Why not use your words to do something better. Sunnyside is not devoid of opportunity, so volunteer - take a day and visit the schools, teach a class at the community center, or simply befriend a neighbor.
But more importantly, still that unforgiving pessimism and use your words to defend Sunnyside. Take a little pride in the community you call home and others will follow suit.
There is no easier way to improve Sunnyside than to support it, even if only with your words.