Written by Keira Amstutz, president and CEO of Indiana Humanities
As an enthusiastic cheerleader for Indiana, I have spent most of my career hoisting a megaphone spreading the story of my Indiana to anyone willing to listen. Although my pompons are ragged and my voice is growing hoarse, I join the thousands of Hoosiers who refuse to let the past week define our Indiana to the world.
The world spoke loudly and clearly about my Indiana last week. While in Washington, D.C. for business, the world chorus grew stronger each day as I opened the newspaper or turned on the TV. We were the talk of the town.
Deflated and discouraged I returned to my Indiana and spent the weekend in the beautiful town of 1,000 where I was raised, nestled in the northeast corner of the state. Rambling into town I drove by the mighty but small public school where I learned so many of life’s lessons. There wasn’t much going on at the four-way stop in the center of town, but that wasn’t a big surprise. A sign tacked to a light pole advertised a bake sale at the grocery store.
Pulling into the parking lot, I noticed a young mother carefully extracting three well-bundled children from her car. Entering the cozy, familiar grocery I spied one of my high school classmates, Karen, sitting behind two folding tables nearly buckling under the weight of handmade cookies, cakes, pies and snacks. Karen had single-handedly made all of the goods as a fundraiser for her church. I was excited to support the fundraiser but quickly realized that I only had $4. The Chex mix that I wanted to buy was $6. As I fumbled with my wallet the young woman from the parking lot smiled and gave me $2. She said she wanted me to have it and then proceeded to buy up several items with the help of her three little ones. I thanked her profusely.
After saying hello to an old friend behind the meat counter and shooting the breeze with a local farmer about the weather, I arrived at the checkout line staffed by the smiling daughter of a friend. The young cashier was patiently helping the customer in front of me. Clad in a tattered Batman suit –including hood – the small boy was fumbling with a faded baggie full of change, mostly pennies and nickels. He had purchased a gallon of milk for his grandma who was waiting in the car and was hoping he had enough money left for a candy bar. As the kind woman had done for me minutes before, I was delighted to hand over to young Batman a quarter so that he could settle up with the cashier. He peeked out from under the hood long enough to offer a warm thanks and big smile. It made my day.
This brief encounter reminded me of many things I love about my Indiana. My Indiana is generous, charitable and kind. My Indiana is welcoming and open. My Indiana celebrates the charm, beauty, common sense and hard-working character of our rural communities and the energy and diversity of our urban centers. My Indiana is still here. Let’s dust off our megaphones and clear our voices and get to work. My Indiana deserves nothing less.
The humanities, in essence, celebrate what makes us human. That’s why Indiana Humanities is a neutral convener and facilitator of open dialogue. We welcome diversity and seek a variety of voices to help us understand what makes us all different, yet similar. It’s why we firmly believe in inclusion, not exclusion.
And we’re not the only ones. Indiana is a welcoming state, full of Hoosier Hospitality, hard-working people and open arms.
Indiana Humanities will continue to welcome, support and value all people – regardless of race, religion, gender identity, or sexual orientation.