By: Brian Evans
I have had a number of Joplin residents who have asked me why I ran for Joplin City Council in the April 5, 2022 election, and why I continue to fight for this city! To fully understand that question, I took them back to the beginning!
I was born and raised in Neosho, which is a small town on the southern side of Joplin! It was in Neosho that I learned the importance of small town values such as friendship, compassion, and a community that looks out for one another. In fact, it wasn’t until I was older, and I visited New York City, that I realized how much I treasured the values that I grew up with, like saying hello to a stranger walking down the street, helping the elderly get across a crosswalk safely, shaking hands, or giving a hug to a fellow citizen who is struggling with grief!
When I moved out on my own to go to college, and manage restaurants, I lived in a number of cities in the four-states and in Louisiana. However, it wasn’t until I finally settled into Joplin that the future of my life began to take shape.
It was about 2002 when my wife and I moved to the Joplin area. We were newly weds at the time, and debated on where to settle. We moved into a small neighborhood on the southwest corner of the city. It was a quiet neighborhood, with wonderful neighbors. It was the perfect place to have kids, and we fell in love with it almost immediately. Everything seemed perfect, at least until 5:34pm on May 22nd 2011. The tornado landed in our small Cedar Ridge subdivision and did massive damage to our home, while leveling others.
Interestingly, today the tornado brings back a lot of memories, both bad and good, and I credit the event with being the reason I now call Joplin my home!
In fact, although it was a terrible and devastating tragedy, and I so vividly remember how my family felt utterly devastated after our home was hit, it was the massive outpouring of support from our neighbors, and even strangers from our community, and from outside the community, that is etched permanently into my mind!
In fact, we had complete strangers drive by who saw us cleaning up the debris, who then handed us complimentary water, sandwiches, snacks, and even trees to plant in our yard! There were civilians rushing into St John’s Hospital, and using doors to help carry victims of the twister down stairs! Nobody bothered to consider what color, race, nationality, gender, or any other factor, when helping each other! It was one of the greatest moments of unity that I have ever seen or experienced!
I remember holding it together until about two weeks after the event, and at that moment, I felt a rush of emotion that built up, not because of what we had lost, but what we had gained! We realized we had a community filled with unparalleled love, compassion, and dedication to one another! That compassion wasn’t based on our differences, but on the fact that we are all human beings! It was at that moment that I knew my family had found a place we could call home! Not the one that we rebuilt from the devastation of the tornado, because a house can always be rebuilt. But instead, we realized we had found a community that finally felt like a place where we could grow roots, and raise our family!
Sadly, since that event, our nation’s leadership and media have waged war on that very unity that was the cornerstone of our community! They are trying to divide race against race, men against women, the young against the old, corporations against small businesses, the masked against the unmasked, and the vaccinated against the unvaccinated! It reminds me of a statement made by Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War which read…
“A house divided against itself, cannot stand.”
Now, in recent years, I have seen our leaders place undue burdens upon our local businesses, which created a “house of division” where customers turned on our local small business owners! In fact, our local businesses were placed into a position where they had to offend one half of their customer base, or the other! Furthermore, their actions led to neighbors turning on neighbors, friends turning against friends, families against family members, corporations against our local small business owners, citizens against our men and women in uniform, and even some of our hospitals have turned against the doctors, nurses, and medical professionals who placed their lives on the line to protect our citizens lives amidst the height of the Covid-19 outbreak!
Therefore, I have chosen to fight for the soul of our city for several reasons including to give back to this community, which has shown me the true heart of Joplin…faith! Faith in the people of Joplin, as I know that they are filled with compassion, love, and kindness! I have a faith that we will not only endure as a city during this downturn in our economy, increasing homelessness, and rising crime, but I know that with the right leadership, we will come through this and thrive!
In fact, I am fighting for this city to fulfill the promises that our city has made to our Police, Fire, and Emergency Medical Services, so our streets will once again be safe, our homes and businesses will be protected, and our lives will be guarded!
I am fighting for this city so that our small businesses will never again have to feel burdened or placed into a position where they have to offend their customers, act as law enforcers, be worried of losing their establishments, or have to gift their livelihoods to the multi-billion dollar corporations who were permitted to remain open and swallow up their business, as their own businesses were shut down, some permanently!
I am fighting for this city, so that our children can safely play in the streets, so that criminals know that crime no longer pays, and so that the workers of this city know that they will no longer be targeted and wrongfully terminated for making religious based, or medical based decisions that they feel protects themselves, their families, and their loved ones!
Ultimately, I am fighting for this city, so that Joplin can remember what truly makes Joplin so wonderful, so great, and so strong! It is that unyielding compassion and caring for one another that made me fall in love with our great city. In the end, I know it has never left our city, but we simply need to be reminded of what the bedrock foundation of our city is… that Joplin has “Heart”!