This past few weeks haveImage been a roller coaster, on the national level and the personal one. It was just over a month ago that Boston Marathon’s cheers of encouragement were drowned out with explosions.  Just a few months ago Sandy Hook’s daily activities were destroyed by a misguided young man who had given up any hope, and for “only he knew why” decided that those children needed to pay for his pain. In the world of natural disasters we’re seeing numerous storms and violent storms and floods, and through all of this we see that wonderful resilient American spirit of goodness; that inexplicable willingness to reach out to the neighbor in need, that generosity of sharing what little we have to give.
As the days of recovery reached on, the nation wondered why this aspect of American spirit can’t be retained without imminent destruction.  It’s a little like the Christmas spirit, though it doesn’t have a calendar to follow.  But because it doesn’t have that “date of expiration,” it is what has allowed us to grow our nation over the years.

At the same time that this was going on in the nation personally I was preparing for undergoing a hip replacement. This was a frightening time for me, as I am used to being the healthy one, helping others. To not be able to do anything to assist others at this time, and to in fact, to have to ask for help from others is a difficult thing for me to do. But I have had to learn that humility in recent weeks, which I think is an important thing for us all to remember.

With so much going on in my own home region, and in my home nation, I have had more than ample time to put my thoughts together, though not as coherently as I would normally do, thanks to the help of painkillers that have made my recovery bearable.  But I have had a hard time putting these thoughts together in a way that makes sense.  Why does it take a catastrophe for people to come together when we appreciate it so much once it happens?  If it is so uplifting to help others why is so hard to get people to do it more often?  How do we build that sense of community so that it becomes a major pattern in our national fabric?

While I was in the hospital I got a chance to spread the word about NCSC to more than just Ashburnham or Winchendon folks.  It was marvelous to see people make that leap from “what a great idea,”with a gentle, somewhat patronizing smile, to that full fledge gleam in their eyes when they realize how much sense it makes to we provide these facilities. That visible nod that person after person showed me when they “got it,” beyond the patronizing to the actual visualization of that impact. While at the same time I was trying to keep my spirits up, and those of others, the Center sat like stagnant leaf in a dammed up pond.  We have made an offer, but its trip to the final step has been bogged down in laborious negotiations.  Fundraising, programming and publicity say is quietly as I did, though with much more importance that my recovery.

So now I’m wondering personally that same question that is filling the air at so many picnics, parades and conversations this weekend – “If we as a people value this support, this positive energy and sense of community so much, why does it struggle so hard to grow?”  Is it is so temporal that it needs that constant clapping of Peter Pan’s “Tinkerbelle?”  I don’t think so. I just think we need to recognize how much each of us has to offer.

I may have mentioned my dogs before, or my horse.  The horse, Magi, is a cross bred Canadien, the once commonplace progenitor of the modern American Morgan horse. This breed was developed through nature and necessity to thrive on marginal feed at times, to be the Sunday carriage horse, the plow horse, the children’s mount and saddle horse for every day.  They were beloved, though not necessarily flashy. They did the work gladly, but were so commonplace they were overlooked and were nearly lost to our world’s genepool. Thankfully, Magi is here, and while she may not contribute to the gene pool she does educate people who may want to dedicate their energy toward that important conservation work.

My dogs, English Shepherds, nearly suffered that same fate.  These dogs were once so ubiquitous that they appear in countless photos and drawings of old farms around the country. They were the baby sitters, hunting dogs, vermin control, herding dogs, guardians and playmates that filled all the needs of settlers. Each nation has its own version of such a dog, with regional differences, but the focus was always on how the dogs did their jobs, not how well they showed off in the ring.  The rise of the specialized farm dog, Border Collie, Jack Russell, Anatolian Shepherd, and the ability to create these breeds as commercial entities literally chased the English shepherd to the edge of extinction.  They are safe now, though they are still in danger of losing that trait that made them such good work partners – they were willing to do whatever we needed them to do, just to make us happy.

When the United States Army sought to build its K-9 corps during World War II, they wanted to use English shepherds because they were smaller, quicker, smarter and more willing to please some of the other breeds, but they weren’t able to secure enough dogs to make it possible. So they settled for the German shepherd and other breeds, who did the job, but probably not in the same way as the English shepherds would have.

During World War II the American people worked together to support our soldiers and each other. We now face a different but real world threat – resource degradation and climate change. We need to find that thread of community that flares up in catastrophes and amplify its presence on a much wider weave. We need to identify those with the skills, and provide them with the incentives, tools and appreciate to share that knowledge with others.  Celebrating community bonds builds connections throughout the region, through shared interests and a stronger network of support.

But we can’t wait for another series of storms, bombings, and other events to develop these programs; doing so wastes time, talents and potential. We need to put our energy, not just our smiles and nods, to the work at hand.  I’m still not on my feet fully, but I’m back at work trying to focus people’s eyes on our work, but we are just one avenue, though I think it is an important one.  Though urban areas suffer somewhat different challenges than rural areas do, we bring both groups together, which will be necessary nationwide if our society and planet is to prosper. Each of us wants to see someone like us, physically, economically, racially, in order to hang our hats on support, we are all more alike than we are different, and sharing ideas, programs and approaches will benefit those similarities much more than building “prototypes like ours,” will.

Please, share this blog with others, and support NCSC if you can. Though the amount we need to raise is large for a poor region, it is small compared to sheer numbers that are put into a weekend of shopping, and supporting our temporary gratification at the malls and shopping areas.  Give us, or someone like us, $25 to put to work on our projects, and see what “gas tank worth,” gets to do when combined with others.  It’s not flashy or sexy, like the Canadien, the English shepherds or the farmers and explorers who built this land, but it is every bit as important as those contributions to building our present society, only this time it is for today and tomorrow.  Let’s carry that spirit of community work into the summer and beyond so we can all face future problems with a stronger set of tools to face whatever storm comes our way. Thanks,