With apologies to Charles Dickens, the past year has been the best of times, and it has been the worst of times. I’ve been privileged to be a resident of this small town – by choice, and after long and careful consideration – for 14 months now, and I have learned that this beautiful little town has a split personality.
At the best of times, I see a community filled with independent, hard-working, selfless individuals who give of themselves at church, the school, the museum, the library, the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary – and many times, at more than one of those places. Hundreds of residents volunteer untold numbers of hours to the annual summer festival because they love their village and want to share that love with the rest of the world. They work together like family, caring and sharing, laughing and loving, and, unfortunately, fighting.
At the worst of times, I see a community so divided by years-old grievances with vaguely-remembered origins that the village officials won’t talk to the Chamber whose old board won’t talk to the new board who won’t talk to the Merchants’ Association who won’t talk to the schools who won’t talk to the village offices – ad nauseum. Isolated gaggles of nay-sayers fan the flames of old battles, refusing to compromise or to forgive. Egos get in the way of any real progress, and he-said/she-said/they-said rumors fill the streets and shops.
And I mourn.
It’s been said I don’t have a say in this fight because I’m not a ‘native.’ Sometimes it takes someone from outside the family to see just how dysfunctional it really is, in order for the family to take charge of fixing the mess they have perpetuated. I’d like to help fix it, but I won’t be stuck in the middle of the factions. I make a concerted effort to get along with everyone, to see all sides of an argument, and to find common ground. Someone with an acknowledged stake in this village needs to step forward, put aside ego, act like an adult, and set a good example of integrity and compromise. I promise you I will be right there with them, working for what is best for the village in all sectors.
I love this town and many of the wonderful people I’ve have the opportunity to work with this year. The village will succeed or fail on the efforts of all the residents together, not any one group fighting its own self-centered war. I, for one, would like to see it succeed.
Finally, I have been nominated to serve on the Chamber of Commerce board and have applied for employment in the village offices. My words may cost me both of those opportunities – so be it. I’ve spent too many years smiling and nodding and trying to avoid controversy to keep silent now, when so much is at stake. Those who have come to know me will understand that my motives are pure. Those who do not will have to judge my words on their own merit.