When a community is really a family
By Tina Palacek
It seems like you cant read a newspaper, watch the news on television, or listen to the radio without being reminded that we are in a recession. Were all tightening our belts in order to get through these tough financial times. I think everyone agrees economic hardship is difficult at any time, but especially during the holidays. The added stress of holiday preparation, gift buying, plus professional and personal obligations increases the madness that envelops our lives at this time of year. The combination can make anyone a little crazy and self-absorbed. Im sure that in many towns, thats exactly what is taking place: people are working so hard to get everything done that they only see whats directly in front of them.
In our community, however, the exact opposite happens time and time again. We live where friendship, support and compassion for others outweigh personal needs and desires. Financial hardships and busy schedules take a backseat when we hear that a neighbor or friend needs help.
In the past two months, unfortunately, there have been two such calls in our community. One of our dearest friends was reported missing after a day of hunting with his family. The alarm went out, and with that the entire community rallied to help the family find their patriarch. Hundreds of people gave countless hours searching in the cold to find this amazing man. Business owners opened up their closed stores to provide food and beverage for tireless search team members. Citizens donated their time, energy and support to the family and friends in an effort to ease the pain. The true meaning of community was displayed during those long cold hours. Everyone gave himself or herself freely and without restriction in an effort to ease the suffering of someone else. Personal egos were nonexistent; the only thing present was a unified mission to help.
Unfortunately, not three weeks later, another area family faced an emergency. A local woman was diagnosed with a devastating disease compounded by no health insurance; she was facing a serious crisis. It didnt take long for the community to hear, however, and within one week a benefit spaghetti dinner was organized with all proceeds going to the family. The dinner was an incredible success, the tables were full, raffle baskets overflowed, and even Santa himself stopped by to add his support. The family still has a difficult journey to make through this illness, but now they know they wont be taking it alone. Each step toward recovery will be made with the love and support of their neighbors and friends.
Goodwill and helping others is a topic discussed often during the holiday season, but in our community its not just a topic; its a way of life that is demonstrated all year long. In our little part of the world, serving others is still alive and well, motivated only by the desire to help. I challenge anyone to compare our close-knit small community to any big city around the world. They may have larger populations, but when it comes to the capacity to give and help others, were the best.
(Tina Palecek is a local volunteer and community leader who recognizes the value of friendship and community involvement. Palecek is also the Town of Highland Supervisor.)