It’s Not Hard to Be Decent

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While writing this week’s story on the anniversary of the July flood that began on the tenth of the month, exactly one year before the date of this week’s edition of the Gazette, I was struck by how people come together to help each other when disaster strikes.

It’s easy for us in the media to find the disasters because they confront us directly. The photos almost take themselves. Flooded streets, destroyed bridges and collapsing buildings are easy to spot and tell a tale about the terrible power of unprecedented events when we share them in a paper and online.

Even photos of cleanup are similar, often emphasizing the disaster as much as the resilience they show. Tons of soggy trash piled up outside homes and storage buildings, construction equipment hauling stone and gravel to repair roads and bridges, even mud-covered people with shovels mucking out a cellar, mostly share a tale of the disaster and its aftermath.

What that cleanup means to a family who can now begin to consider how to repair a furnace because the mud is gone, or who can now get to a grocery store because a road is repaired or can begin to replace walls in their homes, can’t be captured in those photos and is harder to capture in a story because those people are usually living their lives quietly.

In addition to what they usually have to deal with in living their lives, they now have the added burden of applying for FEMA, town, or state assistance. Making phone calls to get quotes, calling insurance agencies and finding new furniture add enough additional stress to anyone’s life that we’re not likely to hear about it at the Gazette to mention in a newspaper story.

Beyond that are the ways people feel about those acts of kindness and the even quieter ways people connect. A bond is created between a construction worker and a small child who shares a lemonade or a cookie. An elderly couple or single person who gets help with groceries or preparing meals makes a connection that isn’t in the public eye to be shared, but is more valuable than a pile of gold when someone’s heart is touched by kindness.

Community organizations that brought people together during town’s responses to the flooding, add value that cannot be measured in dollars and cents. The Hardwick Area Neighbor to Neighbor group, coordinated through the Jeudevine Memorial Library, sprung up and worked with the fledgling Civic Standard to bring help and supplies where they were needed.

Marshfield’s store did the same there.

Those organizations, and others, like the Center for an Agricultural Economy, continue to offer community meals and are adding more.

Those community events, where people can share a meal and relax together, continue to bring us together. There we have the opportunity to make important connections, often doing so without any effort whatsoever.

The ways those acts of kindness and community events help us get past our differences, connecting us because we are all human, can help us understand it’s not too hard to bridge civic and political divides that often loom large in our minds.

We all need the same things to survive. Water, food, shelter, clothing and, in our rural area, transportation, are all necessary. They are all available and needn’t be denied anyone because we think our need for more of something means it’s acceptable to deny anyone else a basic living.

We can all be decent people, it’s not that hard.

Paul Fixx, editor

Paul Fixx is editor of The Hardwick Gazette and lives in Hardwick.

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