The power of place shapes us

By Suzii Paynter March

Usually, we don’t notice a place’s effect on us as much as we would a tattoo on our skin, but the effect of place is just as permanent. What if we were able to read on our arms and legs how the places we have lived affect who we are and who others are? In her insightful book, Spacious: Exploring Faith and Place, author Holly Sprink boldly reminds us “PLACE physically and spiritually marks us.”

Truthfully, the very things we do in Waco today are making a place that will have a permanent impact on each and every one of us. The places of our lives have shaped us like a permanent tattoo.

Many times, we come to a place with the idea that it is ours alone, that we can doll it up the way we want to, using it the same way we would a junior high locker. But with land, homes, cities, jobs we don’t just put our stuff there and clean it out at the end of the semester and forget the combination.

We don’t live in a vacuum, we live in a place with particulars about it — historical tone, present day idiosyncrasies, shades of particular people or a particular way of thinking. We each live and work in places with their own histories and with unique particularities in which God loves and works.

Space means an area of freedom — space can be imagined as a weekend or holiday, characterized by neutrality or emptiness, waiting to be filled.

But PLACE is a very different matter.

Place is space where important words have been spoken; it is a particular location that establishes identity and defines vocation, where vows are made and promises invoked. Place is indeed a protest against the uncompromising pursuit of space. It is the declaration that our humanness cannot be found in escape, detachment, absence of commitment, and undefined freedom.

Waco is showing signs daily that we are growing from a BIG SMALL TOWN, to a SMALL BIG TOWN. In fact, a national index called the City Health Dashboard identifies Waco as a Regional Hub. (Texas’ other regional hub is Beaumont/Port Arthur.) Regional Hubs like Waco are mid-size cities that provide growing centers for economic growth, healthcare, population concentration, and where patterns of improvement and decline manifest themselves.

Whether your Waco neighborhood is city, suburban, or rural — Waco Is the central identity in this region. Waco is the Greater Waco area.

The experience of your family and neighbors while in Waco is essentially the Waco tattoo they will carry, and how they approach Waco is the way they will approach the next new PLACE in their life.

Every day we are building the place, Waco, that will shape the lives of generations. This is more than marketing, branding, or even convention and visitors work. We live in a city full of interconnected systems — at Prosper Waco we focus on the interconnected systems of health, education, and financial security. At these intersections are genuine human experiences that are as “permanent as tattoos.”

Let’s strive for a thriving city. It is in our power to be a PLACE and a people with the will and ability to assess and redress disparities in opportunities and outcomes.

Suzii Paynter March is CEO of Prosper Waco.