This blog is written by one of 15 individuals attending the South By Southwest Conference in Austin with the intention to bring back ideas and to reimagine Richland County.
I have now finished two days at my first South By Southwest and all I can really say is WOW!
From the speakers I have listened to, the food I have digested, but most of all the people I have met. I have spent two days talking to people from Germany, Sweden, China, and every state across the United States.
With each new person I learn about their culture, their reason for visiting Austin, and the exciting things going on in their communities. Each person is just as interesting as the last.
Now if you know me, you know I feed off of meeting new people and learning about everyone I come in contact with. That is why I have been grinning from ear to ear since we landed in this beautiful and weird city.
But with each new smile I come across, it makes me think, are WE this welcoming? Are WE this excited to see new faces in our community?
Yesterday I sat through a speaker that discussed our world having a hospitality crisis, and although she was using the term in a completely different manner, it did make me think. In Richland County, are we friendly and generous to those we come into contact with on a daily basis - whether those people are our day-trip visitors, the folks that have lived here their entire lives, or the transplants that have decided to call our community home?
What about those less fortunate than ourselves or those affected by addiction in some manner? Do we live up to the Midwest stereotype?
Almost 11 years ago I moved here from a land far, far away and was met with mixed emotions. There were those that opened their arms to me and invited me into their circle, and then there were those that were not happy to see a new face trying to push their way into their lives. Either way, I was here to stay.
But some don't have the same attitude. For some, the latter makes them turn around and run. I have been truly fortunate to have come across some amazing people in this community, those that have made me feel like Mansfield IS home. That is what I wish for everyone who comes to our community.
I see a Mansfield that embraces the uniqueness that we have created. I see a Mansfield that is accepting of every person and the stories that come with them. I have seen so many changes in the years I have lived here and that excites me. We do still have some work to do, but I believe we have the people to make our community the friendliest Midwest town - the warm and inviting community it needs to be to get new business and residents to want to be where we are.
I know that as the 15 of us come back from this adventure, we will be met with mixed emotions yet again. This time those emotions will be happiness, excitement for change, and a little sadness as we finally rid ourselves of the past and move forward with growth and a new journey.
Stay tuned and follow the progress via #SXSW419. And watch for more blogs at richlandsource.com/rising_from_rust/sxsw.