Can you put into words what your town means to you?
One of our favorite spots in town is the playground at Hessel Park where we routinely take our four grandchildren when they are in town. When you are at this playground, you are one of many adults and kids that are immersed in and sharing in the exuberant world of play: kids climbing and jumping and running and laughing; and adults standing and chatting and smiling and reminiscing about their own childhood days.
As you look around you see parents and kids and grandparents and grandkids of all stripes and stations, all nationalities, all races, all religions, all identities. While the kids are playing, the adults are striking up conversations with strangers while they keep a watchful eye on their kids:
Where are you from?
What brought you to Champaign-Urbana (CU)?
What do you do?
Where do your kids go to school?
How about those Illini? … and on and on it goes.
In the midst of the playground experience, it is so clear to me that we all want the same thing in life, which is to build and enjoy happy, fulfilling, and loving lives with our families.
Thanks to the presence of the world-class University of Illinois that sits in the middle of our twin cities, I have always appreciated the fact that CU’s social milieu embraces a diversity of people from all walks of life and nationalities including 128 foreign countries with the top four being China (5912), India (2895), South Korea (923), and Taiwan (476). And it just so happens that the town enjoys a lucky balance between being not too small and not too big in both population and physical size, such that we bump into each other daily at the grocery store, workplace, football stadium, park, church, mall, pool, movie theater, hardware store, bank, restaurant, and all the places where people go. We work and play together in a friendly and mutually respectful way that inspires productivity, creativity, innovation, but most of all, community.
This, for me, is the soul of our town that makes it such a special place.