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The world needs more Buffalo.

“Hey it’s good to be back home, again.”

                                                      -John Denver

Fitting that a quote from one of my favorite singers of the 70’s is also an expression of my pleasure to be “back home again” on BRO.   It’s been well over a year since I wrote for Buffalo Rising, and just like it’s good to be back here again, so too am I reminded how much I’ve missed it. And boy, do I miss it. So, why the absence?

As a Canamerican living north of the border, in full confession I had a difficult time processing the results of last November’s election. In truth, it dispirited me a great deal and it even affected my motivation to write about anything related to the US… including Buffalo.   I kept thinking to myself, “If only Buffalo could be moved a couple miles to the north, I’d have no need to grieve.” But I had to grieve.

A year later however, and thanks entirely to an inspiring online chat with Queenseyes, my spirit and vigor to write about my beloved city has been renewed. So, it’s with pleasure to be “…back home again.”   In fact, what gives me the inspiration today to write about Buffalo in the face of the current political climate in the US, is really what has inspired me to write about Buffalo for these last 10 years – the specialness of this city and my love for it.   It’s why, as Queenseyes helped me realize, that despite the current realities of a reality show White House (no matter one’s political views), Buffalo is still the same; still the same beloved burgh we all care about today as we cared about it prior to last November.  It’s good to know some things never change.

If there was ever a US city that emulates what I love most about Canada, it could only be Buffalo.

Perhaps in fact, because of the very state of political affairs in the US today, Buffalo is even more special today that it was before November 2016. And I really believe that. Why?  If there was ever a US city that emulates what I love most about Canada, it could only be Buffalo. Why?  Because the core values, beliefs and priorities that reflect what Buffalo is all about, are the same ones that make Canada, like Buffalo, a great place to live.

Think about it. Putting aside Buffalo’s renaissance, what makes the Queen City so special?  It’s its people – forward thinking, progressive minded, open hearted people. That’s why Buffalo is a welcoming city, just like Canada is a welcoming country. Both places celebrate the contributions immigrants make to vibrancy and vitality of their respective communities. Just think about Grant Street. Where would it be without the many faces that have come here from all over the world seeking a better life… and in the process, renewing, restoring and revitalizing a commercial district to give it a better life too. That’s Buffalo’s welcoming spirit. Canada’s too.

Where so many places in the US today have closed the doors to refugees, Buffalo opens its heart to people fleeing persecution, violence and death.

But beyond a welcoming city. Buffalo is a compassionate city too, just like Canada is a compassionate country. Where so many places in the US today have closed the doors to refugees, Buffalo opens its heart to people fleeing persecution, violence and death. One need not look any further than the amazing work being done at the Jericho Road Community Health Center, to see how much Buffalo cares about refugees seeking a better life in a better place. The Center’s “Hope Refugee Drop-In Center” provides a safe place for refugees to receive support in navigating through the challenges of relocating to Western New York.   And Journey’s End Refugee Services, a pillar of Buffalo’s social outreach community that welcomes refugees with the supports and resources they need to establish a successful life in this area. That’s the kind of compassion Buffalo is known for. It’s the kind of compassion too, that has made Canada one of the most respected countries in the world for its commitment to helping people from war ravaged countries start a new life.

But there’s more. Buffalo is also a city that honors, dignifies and respects diversity, a city where people from all backgrounds are welcomed, valued and invited. Sounds a lot like Canada to me.

Still need more proof of the ties that bind Canada and Buffalo? Look no further than Buffalo City Hall, or outside the Hyatt or on the Peace Bridge or at the KeyBank Center. What do you see proudly waving in the air?  The Canadian flag. Truly a reflection of the deep and important relationship and the shared values and beliefs that Western New York celebrates with its neighbor to the north. Indeed, what other US city has as many Canadian flags flying within its jurisdiction?

So, as I reflect on my year’s absence from BRO, I am truly reminded not only how lucky I am to be connected to both a country and a city that I am proud of…. but perhaps more importantly, that if ever there was a time in US history, that Buffalo and Buffalo values are needed, the time is now.  I can say proudly, with pleasure and pride… especially today… the world needs more Buffalo.

Written by Lorne Opler

Lorne Opler

Toronto born and raised, but with my roots solidly planted in Western New York, I have been visiting Buffalo and enamored with Buffalo ever since I was a kid. I love writing for BRO but equally enjoy writing about Buffalo for Southern Ontario audiences to introduce them to all the great things happening in the renaissance city. When I'm not writing, I'm teaching fitness and health promotion at a community college in Toronto and running my own personal training business. Visit my website at www.lorneopler.com

View All Articles by Lorne Opler

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  • PaulBuffalo

    Gushing about a city you love is wonderful. However, I hope you don’t think that the qualities you mention are exclusive to Buffalo. What you elusively describe as Buffalo values are obviously embedded in welcoming communities across the United States and, indeed, the world. These are human values.

    I’ll have two of whatever it was you were drinking when you wrote this, though.

    • Eric

      Not a gentlemanly comment. Can’t the man have his say about a fine city without you trying to be so corrective? And I disagree with you–there are some unique human dimensions here, as there are in all places.

      • PaulBuffalo

        Eric, hello. I hope you’re doing well. It’s been a long time since we’ve gone back-and-forth on the city’s uniqueness. I’m not always gentlemanly but I do what I can. I’m not correcting the writer. He finds compassion in Buffalo and that’s great. I’m saying it’s not limited to or unique to Buffalo. There is a big world of compassion out there and it can be witnessed every day. My initial comment was and is positive.

        • Eric

          Thanks, and hope you are well too!

  • Douglas Ineson

    Typical Canadian response. Why do Canadians worry so much about the US and not their own country. Canada is our homely little sister. If it so good there go back and stay there. Born in FE also.

    • UrbanLove

      boo. waste of space comment.

  • eagercolin

    “It’s its people – forward thinking, progressive minded, open hearted people.”

    I love Buffalo, but this isn’t how I would describe Buffalonians.

    • Everything is Great

      I think he means it more along the lines as: the type of people, high percentage wise, who will blindly give their wallet and energy to any social justice cause they whimsically feel the need to fight. Another translation: We welcome you as long as your thought pattern isn’t outside of mine.

      • eagercolin

        Buffalo is hardly the place you describe, either. Our “social justice causes” are less enthusiastically supported than in other similar cities.

        • Eric

          Evidence?

          • Matt Marcinkiewicz

            I remember reading that Buffalo ranked highly for charitable giving (mostly religious in nature, unfortunately) and lowly in ‘charitable participation’. No link at the moment; I’ll revisit this if you wish. Eric = EricOak from the livefyre era, no?

  • Jeff H.

    Why is it that comment sections are always filled with vitriol? Paul, yes it is true that this describes “welcoming communities across the United States”, but they are not necessarily human values. I’ve lived in cities across the Country and I can well attest to Buffalo’s unique kindness and openness. Buffalo is called the City of Good Neighbors for a good reason, why not celebrate that?

    • Johnny Pizza

      The commenters here tend to balance out the optimism or pessimism of any given article that is published by Buffalo Rising. Its a healthy balance, trust me.

    • PaulBuffalo

      Jeff, my comment was not vitriolic. On the contrary, the compassion mentioned in the article is not limited to Buffalo. Compassion is, indeed, a human value and it can be found everywhere. If you want to celebrate the city’s neighborliness, please carry on.

    • Matt Marcinkiewicz

      I wish real life were full of Buffalo Rising comment section-style vitriol instead of either stupidly expressed vitriol or mindless, oblivious contentment.