The People of Wisconsin

There is a tendency for people to belittle their own – wherever we’re from. “Good” is a relative term. In my 2 weeks in Wisconsin, I have been treated (probably unworthily) like a VIP, being chauffeured all around town by my very generous host, Jim Birkemeier, to meet nearly everybody who owns a shop in town (Spring Green isn’t a big town – but it’s got amazing people) and then some. Here are some highlights:

  1. There was a talk at Ferry Bluff Eagle Council to present 30-years worth of data on Bald Eagle counts at the Lower Wisconsin Riverway – ~5000+ man-hours by regular volunteers who live in the area.
  2. Friends of Lower Wisconsin Riverway (FLOW), a citizen-group that volunteers to encourage more environmentally responsible practices at the riverway, engaging stakeholders, farmers, and organizing outdoor activities in the area to foster connection with the environment – all while having some fun of course.
  3. The willingness of various parties entering into conservation easements.
  4. The number of locals who volunteer with the Fire Department, Ambulance and more.
  5. The pride and excellent attitude with which people regard and perform their jobs – however menial those may seem in the large picture (and I haven’t even said they were any good at it).

Numbers 1-4 are mostly made up of non-expert groups who are simply passionate about making a difference – change-makers who care enough to take action. When I came to Wisconsin, I expected to see excellent management and ingenious mechanisms that make things work. I found that the spirit contained in 1-5 trumped (heh) management plans and mechanisms. People were just willing to pay the price to make things better, because they had a connection to the place they lived in.
Number 5 surprised me in a good way. I don’t know if it’s because work here generally pays a self-respecting amount for people to maintain a healthy sense of pride over their work, or more likely, people simply believed in the work they do. And they believed that their work mattered. Maybe it’s time we all take ourselves a little more seriously back home. Because we’re good. And that’s how we get better.

This is Jim and Cirilo (a.k.a. Bugoi) at Madison Airport the day we arrived in the snow storm. It’s an hour’s drive from Spring Green, and both Jim and his partner Tracy were right up to the task of not just hosting two of us for 4 weeks, but also picking us up from the airport. Jim deserves a post of his own, and I think he’ll be getting one soon.

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