There’s something irresistible about a ranking.
We love to see that our income is in the middle, or that our quarterback is the second from best. That we are slimmer than most or that our car is tops in its class.
It’s just fun to compare, especially when you find your community favorably compared to others.
And that’s exactly what happened in October when the AARP ranked Lewiston one of the top 10 small towns in the nation for retirees.
The accompanying article said the AARP “scoured dozens of small cities throughout the United States and selected our 10 favorites.”
The organization said it focused on cities of less than 100,000 population — “small enough to easily navigate but large enough to offer a wide array of culture, amenities and services. These are cities with fairly solid economic foundations and low crime rates. Many are home to colleges and universities, as well as museums, concert halls and theaters.”
Well, when you think about it, that’s us.
Burlington, Vt., was at the top of the list, followed by other great small cities from coast to coast, including Lewiston.
The short article on L-A pointed out our extremely low crime rate, inexpensive housing, numerous colleges, concert halls, excellent libraries and the wide variety of festivals and community events.
The article mentioned the Androscoggin River, the hundreds of lakes and streams within easy driving distance, cross-country and downhill skiing, and various hiking opportunities in the new Riverlands State Park.
What a nice shot in the arm for a community that has worked hard to rebuild its economy and image over the past 20 years.
We wrote a story about the listing and our story also ran in the Bangor Daily News. More great exposure.
But we were disappointed two days later to see the reader comments in the BDN following the story about Lewiston.
Nothing but bile.
“If you are a Somali tired of fighting for Al Qaeda, Lewiston would be a great place to retire,” wrote one genius.
“Lewiston has the best trauma unit in the state of Maine ... If this is true, when the elderly are stabbed, shot ... it’s in town,” another wrote.
“It has been 30 years since I have been there, but I remember it as a dying mill town,” wrote another.
There were about 30 comments like that, making fun of everything from Somali immigrants to our Franco heritage.
There is a sad human tendency to drag somebody else down if you see them advancing or enjoying good fortune. An anonymous online forum gives cowards and cynics a place to cover their own inadequacies by dumping on others.
As a community, however, we must accept that negativity as a challenge.
We are slowly changing our image by changing our reality. Think of the 150 new jobs at Carbonite, or the innovative new drug-trial partnership between Central Maine Medical Center and a local researcher, or the new craft brewery in the Bates Mill, or the major expansions at each of our hospitals, or the new TD Bank call center at the Auburn Mall — all within the past year or two.
Or think of the way our river has flourished, quickly becoming one of the biggest and best bass fisheries in the state. And plans are under way to develop our downtown riverfronts.
Despite a severe recession, we are still marching forward.
It is important that we do two things as a community: continue to evolve and continue to project a positive image to the world.
The cynics will never relent. In time, however, reality will outrun the ill will and myth.
The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and editorial board.