For several years now, Evanston has been working to become “the most livable City in America.” By many accounts we are doing pretty well:
We are green. We have been a Tree City U.S.A. for 33 years. We chose renewable energy in our electric aggregation. We are a finalist for a National Parks and Recreation award. In 2015, Evanston represented the United States as the 2015 Earth Hour City Capital in World Wildlife Fund’s Earth Hour City Challenge. We have free charging stations for electric cars, an ecology center, community gardens, school gardens, farmers markets, bees, and an orchard – planted but not yet bearing fruit.
We love bikes. Remember Frances Willard’s bicycle Gladys? We are still progressing, continually adding bike lanes to our major streets – the newest on Chicago Avenue. We have 10 Divvy Bike stations. This year, the League of American Bicyclists renewed Evanston’s designation as a Silver Bicycle Friendly Community.
We are tech-savvy. For the third consecutive year, our local government was named as one of only six local governments in the nation to receive the Public Technology Institute’s 2016 “Tech Savvy” award designation, which recognizes PTI member local governments that use technology to address issues, current challenges, and future opportunities across the enterprise.
We are cultural. The arts are thriving here. We have public art pieces; music, dance, and drama schools; free summer movies and concerts; downtown dancing in the summer; pop-up theater, shops and plays; and art on display in serious galleries, local businesses, and the occasional U-Haul truck. The producer of the City’s documentary film, “The Arts in Evanston,” was nominated for a Chicago/Midwest Emmy Award.
We are popular. Rentapplication.com weighed census, education, wealth, and happiness before ranking Evanston as #1. Their report said, “Evanston is a leader in sustainability and cultural and lifestyle inclusion.” RentLingo named downtown Evanston among the top 15 “most charming” small cities, while Livability.com ranked it one of the 10 Best Downtowns.
College Rank named Evanston one of the top 50 great college towns, praising its “small-town vibe with access to the big city.” Top Value Reviews ranked Evanston as the nation’s ninth smartest city.
We work to make this a better community: There are boards, committees – appointed and self-appointed, task forces, and ad-hoc groups. They are working on, among other important issues, accessibility, inclusion, affordable housing, equity, and ending and preventing violence against women.
We have a beautiful lakefront, a world-class university, a great public-school system, a library that has become the “third space” (after home and work) for many, fabulous restaurants, and eclectic small businesses.
So why don’t we laugh more?
Evanstonians like to live on the edge, usually the cutting edge, but sometimes we take ourselves too seriously. Do we lack a sense of humor? Of course, we can be sarcastic, sardonic, and barbed. But how often do we really laugh?
Humor subverts the normal perspective and offers a refreshing, upended look at an uncomfortable event from within even an excruciating situation. Laughing at one’s situation or mistakes can be painful but it can also be cathartic.
The best humor comes from within, from people who are close to the situation and have a stake in the venture. True humor that comes from within the context or the situation can help heal.
It can turn the tide from factions wrangling with each other to unite them against the problem itself.
In the introduction to her book “Funny Girl,” Library Collections Manager Betsy Bird writes, “A sense of humor is the best superpower you can have.”
The cape, the costume, and the weapons are just props.