With all the novel ideas of things to do in Downtown Flint, the Flint & Genesee Convention and Visitor Bureau’s most recent event, Be a Tourist in Your Home Town, really caught my eye, although I will admit that I didn’t know exactly what to expect. Indeed, I understood the concept: I was to pay a one dollar fee to board a bus that would port me about Downtown and the Cultural Center to see many of the sites that I am privileged to enjoy on a daily basis. As an added benefit, I could walk the grounds of a few places that are typically closed to the public throughout the year. Still, I quietly hoped that there would be something more to Be a Tourist than just bussing and site-seeing; something that I wasn’t expecting to experience or see.
As it stood, Be a Tourist had all the right ingredients for a fun thing to do in Flint: funding, advertising, support from local businesses, great sites to see and a good turnout on a sunny day; but I was happy to see that the something more that I was looking for was revealed once I boarded the bus. A family of four sat in front of me, and couples of all ages surrounded me. As the Mass Transit Authority city bus rounded the block, one of the CVB workers stood to her feet and asked if anyone wanted to get off at the first stop. She gave a few details about the site, being sure to include an interesting fact, but I realized that what made Be a Tourist so special was not so much the destinations, but the people who were here to enjoy them.
Outside of Capitol Theatre stood cyclists who had decided to travel to each site by bike. The George and Temple Smith family decided to board the bus en masse to celebrate part of their family reunion on the tour. Even the everyday people of Flint who were not participating in Be a Tourist made the experience memorable. A brief visit to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on S. Saginaw Street presented beautiful stained glass windows, an incredible organ, a docent as a guide, and an Everyman seeking absolution.
Dawn Hibbard was the CVB worker aboard the bus on which I rode. She was in conversation with another local tourist when I overheard her say something that resonated within me. As she explained all the great things happening in Flint, and how she often has to decide “what not to do,” since there is so much going on, she said, “The best resource Flint has is its people. There are some lovely people here.”
I wonder how often we in Flint think of ourselves as lovely. Although very few of us probably think so, we truly are a lovely lot. People would have us think that we are nothing and nobodies, the bottom of the barrel, les misérables, but I will have you know that we simply are not such. We are a resilient and resolute bunch; adept in hand and replete with compassion toward others. We cannot let the voice of strangers or the reports about the actions of those on the fringe dismay us. How we see ourselves in the coming years will determine just how successful we become. We must let joy be our strength, for this is how we overcome.
Flint is currently in the midst of the revival she has long awaited. I encourage the reader to look past the occurrences perpetuated and concentrated in a relatively small group. If we do not change our focus, we will find ourselves looking for something that is already here. Be a Tourist gave people the chance to enjoy the forest without being encumbered by the trees. It was like seeing a new Flint even though I see Flint every day; but this is just the new Flint on the outside. Maybe the words of Hibbard will give us a chance to see the new Flint that is within, as well.