This was a headline on page A-1 of the local Merced Sun-Star: “New Book Ranks Merced Fourth Worst Place to Live in U.S.” It’s not exactly the sort of thing you want to hear about your city.
Criteria for the designation includes cost of living index, air quality, job availability, health care, and climate. It struck me, as I read the article, that the people writing the book probably were like air passengers flying over a city. You get a cursory view. “There’s a lake.” “There’s a mountain range.” “A fire destroyed that building.”
But you can’t really see life on the ground—the friendships, the progress of development, the excitement about the future, the commitment and nobility of people. You really need to live in a place to know if its “Worst” or “Best.”
I prefer the view from the ground. It’s more realistic and less frightening. On the ground I get to hear people talking. Down here I learn of business’ increasing interest in Merced as a place to build. Down here I get to see all the building going on at our new University of California.
On the ground I get to visit with wonderful people who believe in this city and are invested in its success. This is not the “fourth worst place to live in the U.S.”
Does Merced have challenges? Yes she does. But challenges do not make a place “worst,” only exciting.