I live in an extremely small town. A unique town. Now I’ve known it was special my entire life, probably because it’s been a part of me for close to 60 years. I became Clerk for the Board of Health and Treasurer a couple of years ago and that’s when I found out what a true anomaly Rowe is in the real world.
I think I have a naive perception of the people and landscape colored by a love of local history and constant immersion into the life and times of this town through the 1800s until the 1970s or so. This opinion is also a reflection of my childhood when Yankee Atomic was in full swing. Families moved in because the breadwinners worked at the plant and the natives were friendly and welcoming for the most part (maybe because they were outnumbered suddenly). My childhood included monthly community potlucks, square dancing lessons in the Town Hall, youth group at the Community church (my family was not part of the congregation). This was involvement by everyone, not just the newer residents. My mother was Treasurer when I was young and it was drilled into our heads that we never had a right to complain if we weren’t going to be part of the solution. A call to serve for the greater good of the community.
The word community comes up over and over again.
Berry’s description describes how I see community in the context of being involved in town politics. I lived in Enfield, CT for many years, that’s where my children grew up. I was involved on a superficial level there. When you are in a large, suburban area politics is essentially an anonymous business. You can go to meetings, surrounded by people you don’t know, represented by people whose names you recognize but you only know what they tell you in order to get elected to the positions they hold. There is nothing that represents community in an area like that where you can live for 30 years in one neighborhood and barely know the names of your neighbors. My parents were always in Rowe and I spent weekends and summers here wanting my children to grow up understanding what small town life was.
In Rowe you know the names of your neighbors, you know their parents, you know their histories. Over the years we’ve seen a loss of community with the old timers moving or passing away. People have moved in from much larger communities and keep to themselves. I don’t fault them for that but I think something huge has been lost in not reaching out to newcomers and bringing them into the fold. New Englanders are known to be cautious with change but in doing that we’ve gone from helping and holding each other to every man for himself. It doesn’t have to be that way.
We are coming up on town elections and have seen a poverty of people willing to serve. Positions that are important, elected positions have no one running. Positions that historically have been elected are now being changed to appointed. Appointments are not a bad thing, it speaks to the changes in regulations that have forced small towns to do this because the skills necessary to do the jobs are not part of general knowledge. Some of these jobs are thankless and the people who are doing them see the big picture and are doing so for the good of the community.
If you live here get involved in something. Visit the museum, or the library, find a group to knit or craft together. Go to a meeting or two. You might find there is something you are interested in and be able to give a little of your time . Who knows, maybe in the process you will gain new friends, get to know your neighbors, and create a community that’s just a little better for everyone.
6 thoughts on “A Little Better Place”
Hi, I’m president of the Houston weavers guild. What you have written is also so applicable to other organizations that have such difficulty filling positions. Thank you for putting your insights into words to share.
I think that’s true of any kind of organization. Maybe people are afraid of the work involved but I think it’s more fear of the unknown.
I am on the board of our Master Gardener group, and we struggle to fill any open position and in most cases have to recycle the same people into other positions because there is so little interest. I couldn’t tell you the names of most of my neighbors because they don’t even acknowledge us. I come from a background where you knew your neighbor and it was a community. It seems today, it is more of individual home owners and they assume someone will fill those city positions but not them.
We have lost something that was so valuable. Makes me sad my kids will never know it.
I’ve been calling it the “time tax.” Our small towns may have lower property taxes than other places, but we have a time tax to pay if you are really going to live here, if you are really going to become part of the community as you say. Without the time tax paid on town boards, schools, churches, museums, and public fundraisers, people are just sleeping in town, not living there.
Well that’s a perfect explanation and too true.