Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Community Life And The Helping Hand

Gail Sheehy, noted author of numerous books, including Passages: Predictable Crises of Adult Life, named by the Library of Congress as one of the ten most influential books of our times, also authored a lesser known book, Middletown America: One Town’s Passage From Trauma To Hope.

In the book, which Jack and myself will draw upon for tomorrow evening’s Possible Society In Motion Radio Show program, Sheehy tells of her visit three weeks after “9/11 to a vigil in Middletown, New Jersey, a town that lost fifty residents to the tragedy. There Sheehy discovered some interesting circumstances that, even today, bear remarking upon.

As one woman, a recent widow of the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon told her “…she didn't know any of the other widows, although she knew there were many in the town. That really nobody knew one another, that it was very separated and that she was feeling very isolated.”

Sheehy goes on to report, based on her two year study of how the town of Middletown was coping, that it was …”a place where people didn't think they needed community, where people were affluent enough and their work was often in New York, so that they often came and went with very little if any engagement in the community.

Because of its affluence …everybody has to put on a mask of perfection, of alrightness.”

Additionally Sheehy stated --

Yet even the “religious leaders, about half a dozen of them, found one another and admitted to one another, "I can't cope, I don't know how to do this, I am overwhelmed, I don't know where to start.”

Words such as these remind me (Anastasia) that isolation and separateness in our country, tragically, goes beyond extreme circumstances such as “9/11. Unfortunately, the alienation in our society is part and parcel of everyday life.  Blessed are the few, such as myself, who can claim to have an abundance of genuine, reliable friends; enough to assert that they have a true network of support.

I am, indeed, privileged to have this. And, yet I cannot forget, nor would I wish to, the inordinate challenges and struggles I had to surmount to attain this position, one of my life’s greatest treasures.

My heart and soul yearn for the idealism of the American spirit I grew up with in a small Ohio town just after World War II. Personally, it was essential to me, as an adult, that I find a sense of that community spirit, or as close to it as I could. My life up here in the mountains above the historical town of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia affords me that. The nearby towns of Frederick, Maryland and Charles Town and Shepherdstown, West Virginia expand a sense of small-ish town for me.

But today, preparing as I have been for my own quiet commemoration of the tragedy of “9/11, a day that turns out to be one on which Jack and I will broadcast our regular show; this week titled “9/11’s Lean In Legacy,” I needed a bit more to remind me of the spirit of community unity.

So, being of the sixties era, I made a visit to YouTube to hang out awhile with the words and music of Pete Seeger and Peter, Paul and Mary and others. After a number of repeats, listening to “Where Have All The Flowers Gone,” “Blowing In The Wind” and Turn, Turn, Turn,” and shedding a few tears, I felt a bit more connected to both the sorrows and the gratitude of being an American, reminding myself that its not the least of it when we offer one another a helping hand.

Folks in Middletown, Boston and Newtown were forced to do this, coming out better for it, as least in their humanness, in spite of tragedy. Still I can’t help but feel a heartbreak or two that we wait till tragedy hits to turn toward one.

So maybe this week, you can make time for Jack and I as we turn our attention to --

“9/11’s Lean In Legacy
on --

Thursday, September 11, 2014 6:30 p.m.

As usual the on-air, broadcast portion of the show is followed by a conference call forum discussion.  Guests are welcome to join in 
at: 712.432.0600, access code 640883 (also recorded).

If you miss the original conference call discussion, please contact New Horizons, the show's sponsoring organization, for access code for the conference call recording.

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