I Long for a City Where…

Daily Life in Needham, Massachusetts

I am often inspired by stories on NPR. It’s a family joke, as I start virtually every conversation with the phrase “I heard on NPR today…” Earlier this year, Morning Edition resident poet Kwame Alexander and host Rachel Martin proposed writing their way out of the unprecedented events of the past year, to imagine a better future. Their crowdsourced poem This is Our Dream was created from 2,500 listener responses. My favorite line from the poem goes like this: “I dream a world where a bridge is arching over troubled waters, built on a foundation of truth. Where children grow up learning only one kind of division, the long kind.” A poem about hope and promise, and yet also a joke about math. Perfect.

In discussions with my Athenian cohort, I got the idea to create a crowdsourced poem about our cities and towns. Heaven knows we could use some hope for the future. My goal is to create an aspirational poem – not one about what we like, or what we wish for, but what we long for.

The choice of the word long is intentional. The verb “long” is defined as feeling “a strong desire or craving, especially for something not likely to be attained” (Merriam Webster). Not likely, but still possible. A sense of longing conjures a more aspirational lens.

In my mind’s eye I can travel the streets of my Town. I know intuitively where the DPW crews are working today, what time the school buses roll in any given neighborhood, and when the “walk” phase will cycle around at every traffic signal. I know a lot more (to be completely honest) about the Town where I work than the one where I live. I have a lot of hopes and dreams for this Town.

Our friend Peter Kageyama writes extensively about love for our cities. As he states in For the Love of Cities, “When we love something, we cherish it, we protect it, we do extraordinary things for it.” So what about you? What do you long for in your city or town? The one where you live, work, or manage? The one you cherish? The one that you would do extraordinary things for?

I long for a Town where people focus more on what we have accomplished, with pride and amazement, and focus less on what remains to be done, with frustration and criticism. I long for a city where people come together to meet real challenges with resolve and good humor, and a willingness to work collaboratively.

Iconic Hardware store in Needham Center, MA – Often Cited as Emblematic of Community Spirit

I have started asking people what they long for in their cities. Early submissions, not surprisingly, reflect the national mood. If I had to predict, I would say the poem will include a lot of longing for public civility. I challenge you, Relentless Practice readers, to send me your one sentence dream for your city – what you long for. With your help, one day we will open our inboxes to find the joy and inspiration that is our shared dream for our cities – in poem form. And then we can turn to making those dreams happen. Once we can take off these masks.

Let’s practice, longingly.

13 thoughts on “I Long for a City Where…

  1. I long for a city (country) in which everyone considers what is best for the community (society) as a whole and not just for themselves.


  2. I long for a town where residents truly know the role local government plays in their daily lives and we move forward as partners to make the community exceptional for EVERYONE!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I long for a town and a time where finding a reasonable compromise rather than settling for not less than 100% is considered a win.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I long for Needham to keep building beautiful new spaces, whether it’s a Rosemary Pond Complex, or space in our thinking to accept many different point of view, not just the fashionable ones. long

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I long for a city where working for a progressive vision of an equitable future, while working simultaneously with business owners and residents to shape economic development, is not construed as a conflict of interest.

    Liked by 1 person

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