They say Christmas is for families.
It’s a time of gifts, joy, and reflecting upon life itself.
Unfortunately there are those that reside in the Family City that don’t see what is around them as a blessing. Others keep their hearts closed.
They choose to see nothing as they go about their days dumping seething contempt on Manteca.
It’s a shame that modern-day Scrooges who vent about the supposed hell-hole they blog incessantly about don’t bother to unwrap the gift they’ve been given — the gift of Manteca.
We are in the heart of the most fertile valley on earth blessed with Mediterranean weather. To the east we are a short drive to the majestic Sierra and the cathedral in John Muir’s beloved Range of Light that we call Yosemite National Park.
On our door step is the San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta. Its 1,000 miles of waterways is teeming with life. As the only river delta on the western coastline of the Americas from Cape Horn to the Bering Strait it is a magnet for migrating birds.
Head a bit farther to the west and one of the world’s largest naturally protected bays await you with the Pacific Ocean beyond the rugged Golden Gate guarded by what some argue is the most cosmopolitan city in the world – San Francisco.
Travel across the Altamont Pass and within 33 miles you reach the Livermore Lab — an incredible gathering place of great minds. Keep heading toward the Silicon Valley and firms like Google, Facebook, Oracle, Yahoo, Hewlett-Packard, E-Bay, and more blanket the sprawling landscape.
The San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland triangle is overflowing with world renowned institutions of higher learning, endless museums, clusters of culture endeavors offering every type of music to art and live theater, and people that represent virtually every ethnic group on the planet. You don’t have to travel the seven continents to taste every imaginable dish or partake in exotic cultural traditions. You just have to drive an hour or so at most. All of this is in the shadow of the redwoods that are the tallest living things in the world with some pushing 2,000 years of age.
Venture north of Manteca for 45 minutes and Sacramento awaits you with its own unique offerings — Old Sacramento, trails along the American River stretching from the confluence with the Sacramento River up to Auburn and the heart of the Northern Gold Country, as well its own rich cultural offerings.
Head south of Manteca and you will drive for 250 miles through endless farms and orchards that produce fruits, vegetables, and nuts that feed much of the United States and a good share of people around the globe. More different types of food crops are grown here than anywhere else on earth.
Manteca — along with Ripon and Lathrop — is at the heart it all.
There is no other place in California — or on earth — that is similarly situated.
If you don’t consider that a gift to cherish and embrace whenever you can, it is your loss.
Making it all the sweeter are the open hearts that embrace complete strangers year round.
Go Google communities that have free Christmas Eve breakfasts at car dealerships or that make sure every struggling family in their communities has traditional meals for Thanksgiving and Christmas while working year round to help keep their cupboards stocked.
Find a city of 75,000 that has 75 volunteers that are assisting a police department and community as much as they are in Manteca. Toss in senior volunteers with the fire department, the small army of Community Emergency Response Team volunteers and people from other communities would be impressed. Add volunteer tutors to the mix at give Every Child a Change, a teeming Boys & Girls Club with 1,800 members, three Little Leagues — you get the picture.
Manteca never forgets the debt we owe for our freedoms as the community embraces and honors those who have served at every possible turn. The 2,400 flags that line Manteca streets at various times of the year is just one example.
As for being a cultural desert where people supposedly eschew the arts, take a walk downtown and look at the murals. Better yet partake in enjoying various performances from SONdance Christian ballet productions to music in the park as they pop up throughout the year.
The daily acts of kindness that those in Manteca, Ripon, and Lathrop do without hesitation would fill the pages of this newspaper.
We have problems but let’s be honest. Crime per 1,000 residents has been on a downward trend for more than a decade. Yes, we have gang issues, drug problems, and serious felonies but you can still safely walk the streets.
Life isn’t perfect. Neither is Manteca, Lathrop, or Ripon.
That said find a place where you are a couple hours away from natural wonders and cosmopolitan cities that people from all over the world travel to see and can enjoy community values as we do here.
We have been given an incredible gift by being able to live where we do.
There are those who will respond they’d prefer to re-gift Manteca.
To them, all you can say is: What are you waiting for?
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email email@example.com