Like most of you, I love Paducah. And while it is easy to start making a list of all the amenities I like, it is often hard to identify that visceral, deep, emotional reason why my heart loves to call this place home.
Some years back, I had the opportunity to work in Clarksville, TN. For several months I lived there Monday through Friday and came home on the weekends. I was initially excited. I didn’t know much about Clarksville, but I figured there was a lot to see and do there. The population is much higher than that of Paducah, and it seemed to be a booming place.
As I got to know the city, however, I longed even more for home. At first, I couldn’t figure out why. Then, while strolling along the Cumberland River Walk, it struck me: this city does not have a personality like Paducah does! Paducah’s personality always seemed so vibrant, rich, and unique, and Clarksville seemed like just another face in the crowd.
I began to ask myself, where does a city’s personality come from? How has Paducah developed a personality so different than any other city? The answer comes from how any personality is developed, whether it is a city or a person.
It is a combination of where you’ve been, where you are, and where you are going. Who I am has been shaped by my experiences, people who have exerted influence in my life, and my own successes and failures. It is history. It is the past. Events and seasons have come and gone, but their value is unchangeable and invaluable to who I am today. And who I am today is determining where I am going.
I’ve discovered the same is true for any city. Paducah’s personality shines today because of where we have been and our ability to remember and hold fast to the spirit of those people, places, and events that have made us who we are today. Many in our city have not let that fade from our sight, and we are the better for it.
Too many only see where they are now and where they want to go. Without looking back and building on where we’ve been, we start to conform to a sterilized idea instead of utilizing our unique personality traits that truly make us stand out.
How this works out day to day isn’t always clear. We obviously don’t want to focus on the past so intently that we miss opportunities in the future. But we can’t afford to give up one of our greatest resources. It is our past and where we’ve been that will help guide and shape us into who we will be. Paducah has one of the most unique personalities I know. Let us move forward out of who we are.