My wife Erin, going over the edge in Lansing for charity.

The best friends I have in this city aren’t like anyone I’ve ever met.  They’re driven by a different currency, much akin to the Whuffie used in Cory Doctorow’s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom.  For those who don’t want to read up on it, the currency used in this book is social capital. 

These people live and breathe to create opportunities for others in the most selfless way possible.  Incubators for small businesses.  Giving away buildings for events.  Creating opportunities for artists, playwrights and photographers.  Is it the way of the future?  I don’t know, but it seems to be working and I think you should commend them.

The groundswell we feel here is palpable.  I’ve been a Lansing area resident on and off for the past fifteen years.  I can’t say that I was ever attracted to a place I originally deemed as a burned-out hulk of a post-industrial age.  I cringed each time I drove by an assembly plant - even when they were open.  I could see that they were doomed to failure, and represented an economy and an idea that no longer translated into reality.

But something happened that opened my eyes to what was going on around me.  I was invited to be a part of the first Ignite Lansing.  I stepped into a world filled not only with possibilities, but opportunity and wonder.  It was held at the East Lansing TIC (Technology Incubation Center), an incubator started as a joint venture between the city of East Lansing and Michigan State University.  I was exposed to ideas about the future of the Greater Lansing Area.  I presented a topic on the environmental sustainability of a large music festival, and won a beer stein engraved with “Ignite Lansing”.  It was better than a $500 prize, because others actually wanted it, and I earned it by putting the light on the efforts of others, not on something I did myself.

I met people who had no problem putting in blood, sweat, and laughs (no tears here, folks) for the “Greater Good”.  Was this some new breed of communist buddhism?  Who were these people who gave first, and never asked questions about what they “got out of it”.  I was bitten by their bug and haven’t looked back. 

Since then I’ve helped my friends produce and coordinate two more Ignite Lansing productions, and assisted with the even bigger TEDxLansing.  At each step I’ve met and worked along side people who give more than you could ever pay them for and don’t ask what they get back.  They know what they get back:  A better place to live.  Their pockets are overflowing with Whuffies.

As I sit back, reflect, and think about what’s going to make this a city I’d want to live in, love, and make Whuffies for, it’s nothing less than the people who live here that make it what it is.  On whatever level you’re grading cities, the smallest and the largest denominator is the people, and I’d put ours up against the best any day in ideas, dirty feat adventure races, whiffle ball tournaments, social capital and more.  We’re not a rich city when it comes to quantity of living - we’ve got no whole foods, no trader joe’s or even an apple store.  What we do have are vibrant neighborhoods on the verge of awakening.  Pockets of growth surpassing the local, city, state, and national averages by hundreds of percentage points.  More businesses opening than failing.  I’d love to see these people gain recognition for what they’ve done in a national way, to encourage more like-minded people to move here, to encourage those who don’t to just leave.  We’ve got no place here in Lansing for those who want to know what’s going to be done for them, - but plenty of space for those who want to contribute and grow.  When it comes to QUALITY of living, Lansing is wide open for those who wish to come in and earn their Whuffies. 

Benjamin Slayter
Photographer, Marketer, Collaborator, Connector, Husband, Aspiring Chef, Karma Plow Driver, and Friend looking for opportunities to earn Whuffies locally and throughout North America.
Slayter Creative