It had been a while since I had watched a good old adventure movie, so I popped in an obscure movie from the 80’s about an expedition to the sand dunes of the Sahara.
The crew was loading into an old plane. One of the young adventurers was enamored with the plane and was chatting up the old pilot about the craft. “This is a mid-30’s Lockheed Vega, isn’t it? Wow, I love these old planes! You know Amelia Earhart flew one of these! etc.”
The pilot was obviously proud of his plane and talked about how she had always been such a good plane, even though she was older and needed some upgrades to be “a pretty gal again.” The old pilot had sat behind the controls of that plane for over 50 years and knew everything about it.
After loading the plane, they all embarked on their long flight. Everyone on the expedition team had basically drifted off to sleep as the plane floated along. The young man woke up as the wing dipped hard to the right, presumably from turbulence. “A bit rough here is it?” he asked. No response. “I was asking if it’s windy here?” he shouted to the pilot. Still no response. The young man worked his way into the cockpit to check on the pilot who had fallen asleep at the controls. The young man chuckled for a second as the old pilot’s white mustache twitched in his sleep. But then he saw it. As the old pilot slept, the plane had slowly lost altitude and was now dangerously low over the sand dunes and falling more quickly. The young man tried to rouse the pilot who muttered something about having “kept things up long enough” before he lolled into a deep sleep again. The young man quickly strapped himself into the co-pilot’s seat and tried frantically to familiarize himself with the intricacies of this old aircraft. Grabbing hold of the controls, he started pulling back hard to get the plane to lift her own tired nose again. Still the plane was falling. He strained hard against the descent, trying to rouse the other expedition members in the back of the plane to help.
The wings vibrated and the engine whined and growled through the effort. The plane was waking up, and so was the old pilot. Together the young and the old pulled back on the sticks. Some people in the back of the plane were convinced the end was near and bailed out of the plane, rolling down the sand dunes.
As a large dune loomed in front of the windshield, the wings finally caught the updraft they needed and the old girl pulled out of her descent. Finally, the airplane was soaring safely again and the remaining adventurers devised a plan to keep someone fresh at the controls to prevent the pilot from becoming burnt out by doing everything.
As I watched this scene, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’ve experienced that feeling of pulling hard at the controls. The whole event felt very familiar. Then I realized that I was relating that old plane to the neighborhood I live in and have been working on. It’s a beautiful old neighborhood that just needs some upgrades and polishing to be “a pretty gal again.” The neighborhood has been in the same slow decline that the Vega was. The longtime folks in our neighborhood have been at the controls and have “kept things up long enough” without new help and have gotten tired. I’ve felt like the last couple of years as I have worked on improving the place where I live that I have been fighting that descent, pulling hard at the controls as I have advertised, marketed, networked, and promoted Minne Lusa. There have been folks that felt the neighborhood was going down, so they bailed. I feel that, like the large dune at the end of the scene, our biggest obstacle is in front of us as a neighborhood. The biggest obstacle we’re going to have to face right now is simply getting more people to be willing to jump in and take control of something.
We can get this neighborhood “soaring” again. Minne Lusa was designed to be desirable and beautiful. We’re not trying to make the neighborhood into something it isn’t. We just need alert, able-bodied folks to be involved.
We’ve got some great opportunities to be active. We’re not talking about bake sales and reporting code violations (although if that’s your thing . . . have at it!). We’re talking about a Summer Arts Festival, landscaping opportunities, swinging a hammer in home revitalization, assisting in getting decorative lighting restored to the neighborhood, and so many more exciting projects. This is not a sleepy neighborhood who’s best days are behind it.
We are a thriving place to be activated. Come on up to the cockpit.