Commentary and conversations about life in Richmond, Indiana


Why DOES Richmond Matter?

The name of this site is a little boring. “Richmond Matters.” Meh. Okay. Whatever.

I picked it in part because the domain name was available. Have you tried naming something in a compelling way and then making sure the related domain name wasn’t already taken?

It’s exhausting. So it was either this or

You’re welcome.

But I also like the multiple possible readings of the name.

Noun: “It’s a blog about Richmond matters.”

Verb: “Richmond matters, and here’s why.”

The second one is a little more emotionally vulnerable. When I’m in my IF moments about the future of Richmond, I want to tell myself that Richmond doesn’t necessarily matter, and that if it doesn’t survive, I’ll personally be okay.

But that’s not quite true. Not true at all, actually.

a handful

Richmond matters to me a lot.

No, I wasn’t born here and I don’t have a family history here.

But it’s the place I’ve lived longer than any other place in my life. It’s the place I’ve planted roots. It’s a place where I met and married my wife. It’s the first place I owned a home. It’s a place where I’ve planted in the soil, played in the rain, sweat through the summer nights, shoveled out the winter storms, and pedaled through the back roads. It’s a place I built my business, made my living, and invested my savings.

So much of me was born in Richmond, and no matter where I end up living later in life, part of me will die here. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Of course, Richmond matters for other reasons, too.

Richmond matters because there are many others out there like me who see their lives intertwined with the heartbeat of this place, and feel loyalty to it that transcends market research or tourist slogans about why it’s a great place to live.

Richmond matters because it is a canary in the coal mine that is small Midwestern cities competing for each others` jobs, housing, quality of life, disposable income and more. What happens to Richmond happens to a big chunk of the country, sooner or later.

Richmond matters because we have as a community lost so much and put so much back together over the decades that we cannot, in the end, do anything but keep striving to make it the best possible version of itself.

Vine Deloria said:

If you live in one place long enough, you begin to lose the defenses you’ve erected in order to survive in industrial civilization, and you fall into the rhythm of the land. You develop a different sense of the natural world and no longer have to think of things in the abstract. You think, instead, of how the land looks and what it’s telling you.

Always wondering who you are. Always trying to prove yourself, to prove that you are good enough, strong enough, rich enough, good-looking enough. Always trying to define yourself in terms of what you do for a living or what your hobbies are or what you can buy. I can see how that would be an effective survival technique in New York City, but if you live in a place where you’re not always having your identity called into question, you don’t need to worry about those things. You can simply be yourself.

Well, when the land gives you a foundation, you don’t have to struggle with that question. If you live a long time in one place, you have an ongoing experiential context. If you don’t, your life is limited to little disconnected experiences.

Richmond matters because it gives us a foundation, an identity. The identity is allowed to change, the foundation is allowed to shift and be reshaped. But it matters.


  1. Erma W. Rich

    Thanks for this Richmond Matters.

    • Your essay reminds me of who I used to be. There still is a lot of that me left but I’m not so young or energetic as I used to be. Our family celebrated spring by spending one Saturday in a Community Clean up. Because Ed was a SPUR member and officer our area to work was usually the River Road–now Sim Hodgin parkway. The kids remember huge things they dragged off the banks, like toilets etc. The same weekend of the clean-up was usually the weekend of a Charity walk and I used to look at my friends and think “You could actually do some work for your community as well as walk for exercise and collect money and get a new T-shirt.”

      My teen aged kids hid themselves when I called out to other teenagers and said “I wish you wouldn’t smoke. It will be hard to stop.” My son said I might get shot when I asked a man who dumped his car ashtray into the Cox Supermarket parking lot to please pick up the junk he had thrown.

      I, like you, have lived in Richmond longer that any other place. I’ve seen buildings come and go and land uses change. I watched between 6 and 10 houses moved in the West side area around Earlham. One house (Art Little’s) that Ed built has been destroyed. But I’ve seen other buildings bloom again when someone had imagination. Phillips Drug Store on the West Side
      started as a Gas Station, down and a medium-high Italian Restaurant, an exercise salon and then Phillips.–still going, still bringing economic advantage. At a West Richmond monthly meeting in about 1968+ it was suggested that the Community Building (containing a mid-1800’s family home) would serve the Meeting best if it were torn down and a parking lot put in its place. It’s the Richmond Friends School now.

      Ed and I both grew up in urban environments, he in a first ring suburb of Philadelphia where he never even knew where the city offices or the fire department responsible for his home were located, I in close to downtown Indianapolis in the area where the I-70 through town tore open long-time neighborhoods. We both appreciate immensely being able to go downtown and nearly always see some friend we know. We like the scale of living which makes working for the Cardinal Greenway, or putting in some time at the community food pantry a meaningful, personal activity.

      We thank you for your involvement in Richmond and in WRF.

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