By Ruth Gadebusch
With so much of the world in turmoil, the beginning of a new year seems a good time to look at what is right (as in correct, not political) in our community. So many harbor erroneous ideas about Fresno. Too often we become our own worse enemy concentrating on what is wrong.
I say that the North thinks we are Southern while the South thinks we are Northern, therefore we do not exist. Worse yet, too many think we are “country hicks” acting surprised that we have indoor plumbing. Nor have we who produce their food appreciated the wealth of the area.
There is wealth in the geography in nearby snow without daily challenges living in it. We can go for a few hours at the beach and return home all in one day. Mother Nature provides several national parks in the vicinity—one, arguably the most noted in the world.
We have variable seasons, sometimes a bit hotter than we would choose but producing those agriculture products sent throughout the world. We are grateful for this year’s rain bringing fog with its calming effect if one is fortunate enough to avoid driving in it. What weather-related disturbances we do have are nothing to the many feet of snow, or flood, or severe earthquakes experienced elsewhere. We are working on improving our polluted air and conserving our limited water.
Best of all, our true wealth is in people of various cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Just as in the rest of the world, we sometimes have difficulty in understanding and appreciating the differences but there are ever so many working for better understanding giving hope for coming together.
We have passed most of the school tax/bond issues. We are continuing our zoo tax despite opposition wanting matters to stay as they were many years ago instead of the world-class operation it is. We have a library tax as well as in some areas for parks. Someday, hopefully soon, we will recognize the necessity of improving our water delivery system and maybe consolidate our county islands within the city of Fresno, and possibly, cooperative ventures within our sheriff and city police operations. Again, there is much room for improvement but we do far better than we often get credit for, or credit ourselves for.
Then there is diversity, easily spoken but oftentimes not recognized for its usefulness in making the community what it is. Hardly a week passes when there is not a festival of some group celebrating its heritage. Among the first to arrive in great numbers were the Armenians. The group known as the Volga Germans fleeing their homeland via Russia have made their mark. Most assuredly our agriculture has benefited from the Latinos, only now as they branch out into every segment of our population being fully recognized for their contributions. African Americans, mostly from within our nation but still migrants struggling for new opportunities, take their place in the milieu.
Possibly having to make adjustments beyond what most of us can comprehend are the many arriving more recently from Southeast Asia. Joining others from China, Japan and Korea who have long settled here. Daily we see signs of their influence in our area.
While I can’t begin to name the many individuals or groups serving to integrate all, there are several especially useful in breaking barriers. The Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Mission primarily serves the Southeast Asian population but is not limited. Then there is the Interfaith Alliance that, for many years, has conducted a special Thanksgiving service, this year at the Sikh temple, focusing on our commonality. There is Fresno Metro Ministry long seeking to better the lives of all downtrodden. Check out these and other organizations and give them your support. There are dozens and dozens more making Fresno a place called home. We are special and it is time to let the world know it.
Ruth Gadebusch, a community activist, is a veteran, a former member of the Fresno Unified School Board and the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, and an emeritus member of the Board of Directors of the Center for Civic Education.