I ♥ MY CITY (and I have a sticker to prove it)

Photo curtesy of StickerMobile.com

If you haven’t noticed, people are starting to care about their cities and neighborhoods.

Or at least they’re more vocal about it.

Did you see my state pride sticker with the big red heart over our city? I have the t-shirt too. Now you want one. Well, I also ordered an embroidery patch for my messenger bag that matches my coffee mug. Boom!

Then a stranger who lives two doors down walks by with his Apple Watch band coated in city pride-phanalia. No!!!

Ok, but seriously, this isn’t just a “hipster” movement seen in the craft coffeeshops of San Francisco or flat-rimmed hat-wearing Brooklyn-ites. I think city pride is real, but don’t be fooled by all the garb.

I LOVE CINCINNATI ♥

I lived in Cincinnati, Ohio for 9 years. When we first arrived I heard a lot of negative labels about our newly adopted city.

Rust belt!

Crime!

Racially divided!

Gentrified!

And so on…

Call it a miscalculated correlation or not, but just about that same time Crossroads, a large local church in the area, started distributing free bumper stickers promoting LOVE for the city, and things started to change. The realities didn’t change. Problems exist in any place where people are left to being people. But the tone of the conversation changed from illuminating the obvious errors around the city to what we are going to do to make it better. Honestly, it doesn’t take a genius to point out all the problems in our world. Not long after, city pride turned even more micro, to neighborhood pride. No one person bore the burden of changing the city. We all started looking at our street.

The sticker that became ubiquitous on thousands of vehicles throughout Cincinnati

Of course, I can’t prove that stickers caused all of this or any of it. We were in the middle of the worst recession in decades, but startup culture was thriving again. Investors poured millions into better low-income housing, revitalizing abandoned buildings, and the city matched the energy with a controversial public street car project. New restaurants, micro-breweries, coffeeshops, art galleries and city parks created exciting reasons for “date nights”. Nonprofits and churches were collaborating on helping those in need throughout the city.

We’re not delusional. Cincinnati still has its problems, but those who lived there before 2008 now can attest to the slow and steady transformation. The point is the change didn’t start and stop with bumper stickers. People changed, which ultimately impacted the city.

Your “love” is wearing on me, but I like it.

Haven’t you noticed when any trend reaches enough critical mass to become cliche, culture begins to recoil against it? The reason, I think, is trends can easily be picked up, t-shirts worn, and slogans announced without actually carrying the values that started these movements in the first place. That’s why older generations aren’t impressed with trends. They have seen too many come and go with the wind. People talk about how much they love their city but never show up to make it a better place to live. Sometimes all they see are arrogant kids sipping their Gibraltars while musing over Insta-snaps and doing nothing. As a result neighborhood t-shirts and stickers may reach their place in satire and Saturday Night Live sketches, but I hope the deeper, more genuine love for our communities doesn’t get lost in the joke.

Hey, I’m not going to sit here and tell you not to buy that t-shirt until you prove your love, or call you a naive know-nothing, poly v-neck-er. Who am I to judge you? A simple t-shirt or window decal may be a reminder that you’re a part of something bigger than yourself. By all means, wear it! But as you wear pride on your literal sleeve remember you are a part of something bigger. You belong to a CITY and live in a neighborhood.

When you move in you aren’t just buying or renting a home, you’re adopting a neighborhood too. It’s up to you to take ownership and pride in that, and pour a little of yourself into the place where you belong.

So go ahead and buy that t-shirt, but most importantly, carry the message it represents and watch your city change. Who knows, in 10 years you may even get a tattoo because you love it so much.