Friday, August 1, 2008

"Bloom where you are planted"

Friends and Neighbors,

10 years ago, I couldn’t wait to get out of Provo. My wife and I wanted to head east to live closer to my family in the Midwest. But that wasn’t meant to be. Things just didn’t work out. After being disappointed for awhile I remembered a little plaque my mother had in her kitchen when I was a boy. It said “bloom where you are planted.” I realized I had been planted, and that I just as well get on with blooming.

A year later we wanted to buy a home, and started looking around. It was a long process, but we finally found something we could actually afford. We found it because I went for a walk around the Joaquin neighborhood admiring all the historic homes here. After moving into our house, I spent far more time than I should have fixing it up, and falling in love with it. The first day we lived here our neighbor 2 doors down brought cookies over. Her first question was “did you buy this house or are you renting?” I told her we had bought it and she got really excited. I didn’t quite understand why. Over the next year, I kind of figured out why. Homeowners were scarce, and treasured.

Our beloved old bungalow took shape, and gradually became “home.” New neighbors moved in across the street, and they were the “get involved” type. One Saturday in June of 2001, a mass of volunteers surrounded their home and repainted it. It was fun, and fascinating to think that in such a short period of time, such a big difference could be made.

I didn’t realize how contagious this project, that they called Paint Your Heart Out, could be. I soon found myself painting my own house, and the landlord who owned the big Victorian north of me did the same. The next summer, I helped plan the Paint Your Heart out project. Stressful, but exciting, we painted 8 homes in 2 Saturdays. I was hooked.

Since then I’ve had the pleasure of becoming Neighborhood Chair, and working with Neighborhood Housing Services in many ways. We’ve rebuilt old tired homes, repainted nearly 35 homes in this neighborhood, planted hundreds of trees, and done a few things I never dreamed of like creating our own “This Old House” video with me as the inexperienced host.

If you take a walk over to 563 E 300 N, and take a look to the west at 541 E, you'll see two beautiful results of our collective efforts. You see, we are truly Urban Pioneers. We believed in this old neighborhood when nobody else did. When developers were telling the city Council “Joaquin is dead” we knew they were wrong. Thankfully, we’ve gained the support of the City Council and Administration, and are seeing a literal “Sea Change” in our neighborhood.

You can walk the streets now, and not trip on the sidewalks. We have park playground for toddlers, a new park coming soon, and lots and lots of houses with great colors. If you don’t like them, you can blame me. Our challenges remain, but that is a universal constant.

I am literally thrilled to see a $10,000 check coming to NHS. The good it will do, is far more exciting to me than winning their award. I’d like to thank Northwestern Mutual Life’s Charitable Foundation for this award. Perhaps a small gift for an enormous healthy company, but the differences it makes last for decades.

So to all of you who someday find yourself somewhere you didn’t really want to be, and see things you’d like to change—I’ll pass along that wonderful advice: “bloom where you are planted.”

With love,

Kurt Peterson
Neighborhood Chair