“Chatitude” is a word that I first heard while in a meeting with a group of people who had grown up in Chatham. It is not a good word. It embodies the narrow and negative view that holds Chatham back. It is the spirit that keeps the town rooted in the past by doing things “the way it was always done before.” It predicts and celebrates failure with a gleeful “I told you so.” It is the tendency in this town to heap derision upon people who try to better themselves and the community.
I’ve certainly experienced it in my six years of living here as a subtle undercurrent that makes it hard for people who were born outside of this town to feel welcome in the community. Recently, however, I was stunned to witnessed it in full bloom. It happened in a conversation that shifted so easily from the chatter of two children to their parent’s derision of the most recent addition to Chatham.
The Downtown Chatham Centre (our shopping mall) has recently built a small ice skating rink on it’s property. This was built with private funds, on private land and is intended for use, without charge, for families and children in the community. In a town where a common complaint is that there is “nothing to do” a local business has essentially donated property and funding to provide a free recreational space to Chatham. The rink is lit at night, and the expenses are paid for by the DCC.
I heard two children were talking excitedly about the rink before school started. Picking up on their conversation the parent’s added their two cents.
“It’s too small”
“Why didn’t they put it in Tecumseh Park?”
“How is this going to generate any money for the mall?”
“Little kids don’t have money,”
That, folks, is an example of the “Chatitude”. The community was given a gift and yet there is an undercurrent of negativity. We did not have to pay for it with taxes. The city does not have maintain it. What, really, is there to complain about?
Starting in the late 1800s, Andrew Carnegie donated money across the world; not to individuals but to public works. That is how Chatham got it’s old library building which has since been razed.
I doubt the “Chatitude” was in play yet in the early 1900s. This sort of philanthropy has become rare in our modern times. Is it really too much to ask that whenever a successful entrepreneur gives back to his community, we simply say “Thank You” like the citizens did 100 years ago?
This town has so much going for it. It is close to beaches, located along a major highway, has a rich historical story and a great climate. Instead of lamenting what has been lost in the past decade, instead of belittling the efforts of those who try to innovate and do new things, instead of perpetuating the “Chatitude” lets focus on what this town could be. Let’s encourage people to invest in new ventures, to join clubs, to frequent the down town core along with the outlying towns. Change the attitude, and maybe we can get rid of the “Chatitude”.