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Our city's landscaping: does it have an effect on how we behave toward each other?

We all benefit from kindness. Let’s find a way to make all of our city a kinder place to live.
A view of downtown from the fish ladder

A view of downtown from the fish ladder /Annie Steffes

Beautiful view from Vets Memorial Drive at Millenium park

Beautiful view from Vets Memorial Drive at Millenium park /Annie Steffes

Looking over Belknap Park to the Belknap/Plainfield area neighborhood

Looking over Belknap Park to the Belknap/Plainfield area neighborhood /Annie Steffes

Do you think our environment has an impact on how we treat each other? Look around our city from corner to corner. Look at the landscaping, structures, and the people who occupy them. Do you notice if the people seem happy? Are the buildings large and bare? Is there graffiti and drab everywhere? Do you see any small businesses? How often do you walk around the city and encounter strangers? Is there a difference in people's behaviors depending on the location you are currently in? When you go to the courthouse, or even pass it by, how does it make you feel? Have you ever really thought about why we behave kindly or unkindly toward others? Why are we more likely to be kind to strangers when visiting a place of nostalgia like a museum as opposed to a place that represents firmness like the courthouse?

While most people do not talk at the library, there seems to be a mutual calm, kindness and respect amongst the patrons. At the Van Andel Arena there is an air of excitement about the goings on of the evening, but people are not very kind to each other when attending events. Across the street at the B.O.B there is a mixture of feelings coming and going. Up the hill at the hospital there is illness, uncertainty and tragedy everywhere, but people seem to treat each other kindly when using the facilities (not always, but most of the time). When visiting gas stations around the city, positive is not the general attitude. How does it feel when browsing a small local bookstore, record shop or jewelry shop? Is the structure of The Civic Theatre kind or harsh? Walking on any of our city’s bridges across the river, or on a path along the river all have a positive effect on our behavior. Going to another part of the city where there are factories everywhere and our jail is located dampers the mood and causes negative behavior or feelings. What is the difference between the factory area and the bridges? Does being near nature or just simply adding nature to the environment help? Do any of the small restaurants or businesses that fill Monroe Center and surrounding areas need to be added to the list of buildings in our city that need a positive makeover?


Can anything be done to make the places that seem to foster more negative feelings in us, more positive places to be? For instance, at the Van Andel, if the structure had warmer kinder cues set about, inside and out, is it possible that our emotional state would be affected in a positive way leading us to act kinder toward people around us when attending a concert or other event. Perhaps changing the color scheme would be helpful. Instead of using darker colors on the exterior, mix in brighter, warmer colors. On the interior decorate with plants, flowers and random event specific decor mixed with advertisement showing sports teams, singers and bands supporting our local scene, small businesses and positive behavior.


Where else around our city could use kinder warmer cues? What are these spaces being used for and how can their useage be maximized through positive cues? As a whole, what do we respond most positively to? Do bright colors help, dimming lights in an establishment, or maybe brightening them? Things that bring us back to our childhood are helpful in removing the tightness we feel from everyday living, replacing it with a more relaxed feeling effecting how we feel about the people and things around us. Cues help us figure out how we are expected to behave within ourselves and toward others. If there are no positive, mood inspiring cues set about, or if any are present that inspire negativity, we then as humans suffer a deficit in our emotions causing us to be unkind to others.

We all benefit from kindness. Let’s find a way to make all of our city a kinder place to live.

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