My town is going through some big changes. The state highway department is starting a major project, re-routing the intersection of the two major highways that funnel all the tourists, and most of the locals through downtown. A familiar motel and two restaurants have been reduced to rubble and hauled away in huge trucks.
And the city has decided to join in the chaos, by renovating and replacing most of the water mains in the downtown area. Ditches are dug, covered with temporary steel plates, and new water main pipes are finding their way beneath the torn up streets.
Yet, there is more afoot here than meets the eye. Other renovations are underway, more fundamental, and more in the realm of revitalizing our spirit.
A major shelter and service center for homeless people and folks fresh out of the local jail and prisons has opened, offering on site services and a healthy path to personal dignity and reformation.
The community college is building a brand new building, and offering new programs, bringing together other agencies to collaborate on problem solving and innovation.
Even our estuaries are getting a fresh start. Large scale work is underway to open up sloughs, take out dikes, and renovate tide gates, revitalizing our estuaries, restoring salmon habitat, improving movement of flood waters, and re-creating a healthy environment for fish, birds, trees, and reviving an essential part of our web of life. We even decided not to squabble about the project, working together in a collaborative fashion to reduce winter flooding, improve salmon habitat, and literally finding and improving our common ground.
In that work, our young people have led the way, taking their education on improving the world out into the waterways, teaching us biology, flood dynamics, and cooperative learning and problem solving.
Other youth are growing native plants for streambank restoration, raising salmon, and developing community gardens. Learning at school now includes getting out and making our world a classroom, giving us all a new paradigm of what education means.
Farmers are studying improved agricultural techniques, working with others to be better stewards of the earth, implementing new methods, and testing out new crops.
Volunteerism is rampant and a wide range of non-profit activities fill the community calendar.
The coffee shop where I hang out is abuzz with meetings and gatherings. Familiar faces, but folks who are busy developing new programs and taking on long standing problems.
“We can do it,” is the attitude now around here, and changes are coming, driven by a common desire to do something meaningful and make this corner of the world a better place.
It is fundamental change, not from the top down, not from the politicians in Washington, but instead, its coming from my neighbors, and my community, and those quiet conversations next to me in the coffee shop.
–Neal Lemery 5/3/16