Defining St. Louis: A Tale of Strength Amongst Strife
The St. Louis Strong Guest Blog Series asks community voices, business executives, and political leaders, “What makes St. Louis Strong?”
It’s a common word, one that has been known to exist in various forms. Much like its meaning defines, strength is so capable that it has transcended into both the mental and physical realms — a verb and a noun, something that is shown and possessed. It is a state of mind and a state of being.
There are many different ways to represent strength: Human muscles are strong. A nation that rises above oppression to take back its freedom is strong. A single mother who chooses her child over an abusive relationship shares the same strength as the unfit mother who puts her child up for adoption.
Strength resides in every facet of life. It binds human thoughts to human actions.
So where does St. Louis’ strength originate? As a city, how do we grow? What makes St. Louis strong, and how can we be stronger?
Where we’ve been…
There’s no disputing the hardship St. Louis has faced in recent years. Our people have been exposed to various tragedies involving loss of life, record flooding and even the exodus of a major sports franchise, all of which have left us shaken in some form.
Yet we persevere.
From the vantage point of this St. Louis community member — born and raised — our undying will to press through life’s grandest struggles has always been one of our greatest strengths. St. Louis citizens fight for what they believe in, regardless of the battle ahead or the scars picked up along the way. Our perseverance is unrivaled, even in the midst of plight and uncertainty.
We strongly believe that we can make a difference in our community; sometimes we do, and sometimes we don’t, but we charge forward regardless.
Nevertheless, there are ways that we can be even stronger…
Where we’re going…
The future is exciting — bold, bright and unknown. It has the power to be whatever we make it out to be. But opportunity is squandered to all who don’t seek to define it.
For those looking to elevate St. Louis above the adversity we have faced, the “five C’s” should be observed:
- Conservation of Strength: St. Louis is a diverse assembly of family. We frequent the same roads, restaurants and stores. We wear red on Cardinals baseball days, and we scream our heads off when the World Series rolls around. We all hailed Ozzie Smith’s artful skill while we loathed Stan Kroenke’s betrayal. We all feel each other’s joys and sorrows. Because of this, we must learn to lean on each other, to persevere through the bad and bask in the good as one entity: the people of St. Louis.
- Candor: Honesty breeds authenticity. Authenticity is the mother of trust. St. Louis deserves to trust its political leaders, its police force, its innovators and most of all, each other. Without trust, negativity will infect everything until a metropolitan dystopia is all that remains.
- Civility: Remember that we are all human. We have different skin colors, we represent different genders, and we even have differing cultural beliefs. But we share many similarities, as well. We breathe the same air. We all bleed red blood. We all feel the things happening around us — the storefront robberies, the burning buildings, the heinous treatment of the people around us — all of it. Living together in St. Louis makes us coincidental neighbors; embracing our differences and celebrating our similarities makes us family.
- Consideration: This world is much bigger than our city, and our city is much bigger than ourselves. Nevertheless, it takes people to represent St. Louis. We owe it to ourselves and to our city to be considerate of each other’s feelings and ensure that everyone is respected, even when we disagree. No one person should feel insignificant when compared to another.
- Cancel your Judgement: Society likes labels. They were established to define us as individuals among generations — smart, creative and even strong. But unfortunately, they also divide us — black and white, man and woman, gay and straight, and so on. Why do we not recognize each other as alive, aspiring, or human? When do our labels stop representing the things that make us different and start binding us together? When can we proclaim our strength, not as individualized people, but as the human race?
What it means to be “St. Louis Strong”
The greatest lessons are learned through hardship and perseverance. In a way, our struggles over the years have represented a desperate cry from our fellow neighbors; we’ve been trying to teach each other how to be human again. And when our neighbors are hurting — regardless of race, gender, and culture — we are all obligated to listen.
For me today, St. Louis Strong is defined by perseverance, but one day, I hope for it to be so much more. I want St. Louis’ strength to lie in its solidarity, and that, I believe, is the best label of all.
Zachary T. Laidlaw (@ztlaidlaw) is the Founder of Elevate STL. The outlet strives to empower all walks of life to utilize technology in ways that push lives forward. The views expressed by guest writers are not necessarily those expressed by St. Louis Strong.
If you are working to make St. Louis strong and would like to contribute a piece, simply let us know.
Originally published at www.stlstrong1764.org on February 10, 2016.