Having the privilege of living in three of four quadrants of this beloved country, I’ve been presented with a unique opportunity to learn about the subtle cultural differences that exist in various regions of the United States. Times change, and this is especially true in an era where technological advances are literally globalizing our lives in ways we could not conceive twenty years ago.
However, in areas like Western New York where there have been decades of out- migration, cultural influences tend to evolve rather than be reinvented by an influx of people from other places. The people from other places came during the 1800-1900’s, and by 2000, the region was half the size it was sixty years ago. This allows for a crystallization of a cultural identity, and that is exactly what has happened in Western New York.
What came from the hard work of steel workers and manufacturers was a strong sense of pride in being able to provide a good life for family and a growing sense of community. Most of us are the children of immigrants who came to this country with little more than a dream for a better life. They worked hard to provide the opportunity for all of us to live happy and successful lives. They also taught us a lot about perseverance.
The descendants of these incredible people are alive today and show their cultural heritage through forming communities like the BillsMafia. We were born on the Internet, but the desire to share our unique bond with each other is as recognizable as our love of beef on weck and buffalo wings.
One of the traits I am most proud to share with those who do not know ‘us’ is that Western New Yorkers are some of the most compassionate people you will ever meet. Our compassion is what makes us stand out when we show up in other communities. It’s amusing to watch how baffled people from other regions of the country become when they encounter us for the first time.
We probably do seem strange to those who did not grow up in the shadow of the Gotham City. What is obvious is that the desire to help others is long and strong in the backbone of the descendants who are now returning to the homeland in ever increasing numbers. The Twitter handle @BuffaloRising blesses us with story after story of the re-birthing of our region, and it is a testament to the resiliency of a great region of people who were raised in a compassionate and loving manner.
It did not come as a surprise to me when the BillsMafia was born and quickly developed into a vehicle of community passion. It’s what we do. It’s who we are. It is buried in the DNA of every person around the country who was either raised or has a connection to people from Western New York. Compassion is our legacy.
The BillsMafia is what happens when compassionate people unite for a unified purpose. No matter what brings us together, when the goal is to do something good for someone else in need, it’s a win-win. Our mutual love for the Buffalo Bills brought us together for a greater purpose. Our great-grandfathers would be proud to see what we are doing today. Channeling passion into resources for families in need is an example of what makes Western New York residents special.
In that respect, we have our work cut out for us now. It is time for us to reach out and give back some love for our adopted son, Jim Kelly. The BillsMafia represents the super-fans who are loaded with that ‘WNY kind of love’. We must now lead the way in channeling that passion to help our friend in need by supporting him through whatever means possible.
For some, that support may come through prayer. Jim Kelly continues to ask for prayers, so for those who are so inclined, it’s time to pray a lot for a healing outcome for Jim. Others are doing their part by creating tee shirts for donation to families needing help with medical crises in their lives.
It’s time we show others how to “be good” by “doing good.” It’s the essence of what our ancestors taught us. Hard work, perseverance, and compassion are the foundation upon which our character was built. We all carry that tradition together as Western New Yorkers and fans of the Buffalo Bills.
People from other places often ask me how I maintain such a high level of passion for a football team with the three “Ls;” a legendary losing legacy. Truth be told, what they often attribute to misery loving company is really just a bunch of rebels out there looking for a cause for compassion. The BillsMafia is another vehicle for expression of our unique cultural heritage.