Monday, October 13, 2008

Change is good, but...

I am a believer in change. Most of the time, change is good. It hurts, it is messy and it can sometimes be disappointing, but most of the time—goodness prevails. But, sometimes, why can’t we just leave good enough alone.

Ever have a favorite dish at a restaurant and then one day you go back and they changed the menu and your favorite is history? I hate that and would argue in this case, change is not good. When is change good and when is just the way it is the way it should stay?

One of my favorite places to take the kids is Conner Prairie, a living history museum with a national reputation. It’s just about 15 minutes from our house and the kids love it. Its open spaces, few rules and a chance to explore history in a natural environment. They run, even disappear out of sight and I still feel they are safe. Expansive fields, historic homes staffed by real people who are interpreters that interact with the kids and create memorable experiences.

But, they are changing. Finally, the public has an idea of what the plan holds. While sworn to secrecy, I have seen the plan and know what is in store. The ideas are good and it sounds great, but after this weekend, I have to ask, why isn’t it okay to stay the way they are? Here is the thing. Right now, attendance is just right. Interpreters can interact and engage visitors.

There is even a difference from weekend to weekday. On the weekdays when it is pretty empty, interpreters have told, shown and let my children experience amazing things. Weekends, conversations are a bit more general. This weekend, a smaller crowd on a Sunday gathered for a wedding with cake and dancing after. I didn’t dance and the kids opted for popsicles instead of cake (it was actually like an apple pie), but this is only possible with a smaller audience—small enough where everyone who wants to participate could, and they did. We watched from a bench and could see without fighting crowds.

But, when they change it and add these new attractions (the first of which is a hot air balloon ride like the first one attempted by the U.S. Postal Service in Lafayette, Indiana), it is going to become something else—whether they like it or not. It’s going to become a bigger place, which almost automatically to me means it will have less meaning—less touch. They are going to move things around which means some of that expansiveness, some of the wonder and wander will disappear.

Why can’t they just be happy with the attendance they have and the level of funding they have? Why argue for change? I am guilty of changing things that shouldn’t be changed and the results are always disappointing. Some things just are not meant to be changed—some things are just fine they way they are. But, sometimes you only know that after you change them and it doesn’t work.

Most of the time, change is good, but change clearly has consequences and those consequences should be considered before change is made. Is it your idea or our idea (meaning is it me that wants the change and I convince everyone or is it everyone else who wants the change and they convince me)? Is it changing to something that already exists or changing to something that doesn’t currently exists? If the later, think hard about why it doesn’t already exists—what is right or wrong about it that has kept others away?

I have one big example where I made a change I shouldn’t have—a big change. And, it was wrong. I learned, it wasn’t a mistake (cause I certainly came to realize some important things), but it was the wrong thing to do. Now, I must undo—humbly transform back to the old way. Change is not always good. Sometimes things should just stay the same. Sometimes we should leave good enough alone.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for that comment. I couldn't agree more. Change is going to happen - has to happen - but you really ought to weigh the consequences and decide what's important to keep as well as what's important to transform. Balloon ride? Expanded visitation? Have you been to this place on a field trip day? It's already packed to the gills. But maybe this change at Connor Prairie will be humbling for them, just as your change and reversion was humbling for you, and maybe they'll learn. One can always hope.