Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Point of it All

As I slowly transition back to giving my full effort at work after my Father’s passing, I have found it hard to care about the day-to-day functions of planning. The e-mails, the voicemails and the complaints from the community all seem petty to me now. The variance requests, the development review comments, the posturing by developers and attorneys I could care less about. All of it seems trivial and shallow. All of it seems small in comparison to the larger picture of life. My approvals or denials of variance requests seem inconsequential to me now. So what’s the point of it all? If the daily grind of planning seems so insignificant that what’s the purpose?

When I first started writing this blog, I said the initial goal of almost any young planner was to change the world, or at least change the world they know. I remember as a kid being in my father’s car driving on the highway to his office just south of downtown Baltimore and looking at the skyline and telling him how I would change the city and the skyline if I was Mayor one day. I loved looking at skylines when I was a kid. Every time I would pass a city’s skyline I would stare at it until it was no longer visible. I collected pictures of different skylines from around the world and would try to replicate them by building lego skyscrapers. To this day, I can recognize pretty much every skyline from a major city across the world. I knew I wanted to be involved in the planning of cities. At that time, I wanted to be an architect.

Me & My Dad

I knew I wanted to be involved in making neighborhoods and communities better. My Father had a large influence in my wanting to try to make people’s lives better. When I was a kid leaving the house and saying goodbye, my Father would say, “Power to the people!” and I would reply, “People to the power! Any surprise I became a community planner? But to be an effective community planner you kind of have to be a people person and that’s not me, that’s my Father’s forte. Pops was a huge extrovert who loved motivating people to work harder and teaching people how to live better. He would have been a great community planner if he weren’t at first a journalist, insurance salesman and a money marketing account manager first.

My Father in Philadelphia in 1975

And perhaps the lack of being a people person is what has made coming back to work to deal with other people’s perceived issues and problems such a drag. It has been tough to care about these problems and to not rubber stamp everything that comes across my desk. While I may never become a people person like my Father, I can certainly implement all the lessons he taught me over the years. And he always taught me to do the right thing and to fight for what was just and righteous. Even if doing the right thing is meticulous and fighting for what’s just is enforcing agency policies for a variance. In the end all the pieces matter in planning and as planners we cannot choose when or when not to care.

For me, it’s still going to take time to care about the daily complaints and e-mails and voicemails as I once did before. But it’s all part of a greater purpose, to help empower people and their communities.

Power to the People always and forever Dad

This post is dedicated to my Father,
Donnell Zeigler

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