I’ve been traveling and it’s good to be back home again! Sometimes my perspective on Life in White Springs is influenced by other places I have lived and visited. I recently visited my old San Marco neighborhood in Jacksonville, Florida. I always loved the insulated uniqueness of this neighborhood. Peaceful and tranquil even though located next to the hustle and bustle of downtown Jacksonville, San Marco was somehow insulated from the less desirable aspects of the downtown area that was literally within walking distance. A recent visit to my old San Marco neighborhood of 30-some years ago revealed that “progress” was knocking ever harder on San Marco’s door, threatening many of the qualities that I had admired when I lived there. This bothered me enough that, to express my concern, I wrote a letter to the editor of the Florida Times Union and, very much to my surprise, they published it. I’d like to share it with you. Here is what I had to say to the people of Jacksonville about the values of Life in San Marco, and the values of Life in White Springs.

“I was shaken but not altogether shocked by the tone of my friend’s statement, made to me after I had proudly taken her on a tour of my San Marco neighborhood in Jacksonville about 30 years ago. San Marco was a delightful mix of homes and I loved their diversity. Some were worth millions and protected by gated entry ways. Many were beautiful upper class and middle class homes and, on the other end of the spectrum, there were the well-kept but decidedly modest homes and apartments like the one I lived in. These different “classes” of homes were all sprinkled together in my neighborhood, and every day I would see the inhabitants of these homes interacting socially and casually in the stores, restaurants and taverns of San Marco. It was not uncommon to see a mixed pairing such as a millionaire and a teacher, or a lawyer and a construction worker, sharing a moment or a laugh over a drink or a meal, sharing a neighborhood, sharing a sense of belonging that crossed common social and economic boundaries. I loved San Marco for its delightful mixture of dwellings and people.

“After our tour of San Marco, I was saddened when my friend said that ‘It would really be a better neighborhood if they would just get rid of some of the less expensive, lower class dwellings.’ I asked her why she felt that way, and what would such a change accomplish? She said it would ‘improve property values.’ I responded that leaving the neighborhood the way it was maintained more important values, the values of diversity and inclusiveness, important values that improve the lives of the people who lived there, values which, to some of us, are even more beneficial than property values. I admit that this may seem to be a naïve, simplistic point of view to many, but I maintain that most people vastly overestimate the extent to which more money and status would improve their lives. It seems to me that we spend too much time trying to separate ourselves from others socially, economically, and in other ways. That time and effort would be better spent living together and getting to know each other.

“All these years later, in a different time and place, I still feel that way. I’m so glad that I now live in White Springs, Florida, with its delightful mix of homes and people. When I sit on my front porch there is nothing artificial or contrived about the scenery I see, or about the people that pass by. I see the real world go by and I feel connected to it. All these years after leaving Jacksonville, I hope that folks in San Marco still feel that way too.” … After my letter to the editor was published I got some favorable comments from old friends and acquaintances in San Marco and they said that if things in San Marco changed too much, they just might move to White Springs too!

Recently, Merri and I attended a concert by “The Currys” and we heard some of the sweetest three-part harmony this side of the Pearly Gates! The concert was held at the Stephen Foster State Park in White Springs to benefit the much-needed restoration project for the Stephen Foster carillon tower. Some thanks are in order! Thanks to the Park for making the event possible! Thanks to the Stephen Foster Citizen Support Organization and the Board for organizing the event! Thanks to Jerry Lawrence Bullard for being an excellent Master of Ceremonies! Thanks to the full house concert audience that came out to hear the excellent performance and support the cause! And last, but certainly not least, thanks to the Curry’s for their talented performance and the gracious donation of their time and talent! These fine young men love our park and we appreciate that! I’ve heard through the rumor mill that there are some other very talented performers out there that want to support this restoration effort with more concerts! I hope it’s true … Stay tuned.

Well, once again, I’ve said enough but, as always, I do want to remind you that if you have news you want to share, you should let “Life in White Springs” help. We’re always glad to hear about goings on in the community and will be glad to share anything that is appropriate for this column. I am thankful that we can depend on each other, and I hope that we can continue to feel proud of who we are and where we’re headed, and that we all appreciate how White Springs and its surrounding region is a very special place, to be honored and protected. As always, I look forward to seeing you out and about, enjoying your community and your life in White Springs.

Walter McKenzie

386-303-1394

lifeinwhitesprings@gmail.com

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