The western sky was painted with sunset colors as I sat at Fowler Park on Sunday night, December 6, merrily tapping my foot to the seasonal sounds of “Let It Snow.” The strains of joyful music rang out through the chilly air as the South Stokes High School Marching Band entertained the festive crowd. I made 360-degree turns with my video camera to try to capture the essence of what I felt—a sense of community.
On Saturday, December 12, as I drove south through Walnut Cove, I was flabbergasted by the number of people already waiting for the Christmas parade. Although the annual event was still nearly an hour away, Main Street was lined pretty solidly nearly all the way from where the parade starts to where Santa throws out the final peppermint! Guinness may not care, but I figure we set a town record for parade attendance.
By the time I got to the CVS, I was surprised to feel my eyes getting misty. It was more than just an appreciation of the sunny, warm weather. It was more than just the laughter I heard ringing through the air as I rolled down my windows. It was the sense of community I felt.
Community matters. Pure and simple. It does.
As I was reading a newspaper article about those killed in the recent San Bernadino shooting, I was particularly saddened to learn that one of the victims was virtually unknown in his apartment complex. One lady who lived very near him was quoted as saying that she had seen him come and go regularly but didn’t know him. She said that people in the complex tended to keep to themselves and that no one really knew their neighbors.
In a day and a time when families are often separated by many miles—unlike the old days when family members tended to live in close proximity to each other—what do people do when they don’t know their neighbors? What happens when there is an emergency that requires immediate assistance? Whom do you call when your car breaks down on the way to work? I guess in many cases, AAA has replaced the friendly neighbor who would gladly rush to your side when there was a need.
No offense to AAA, but I still think community matters.
I recently read a story in the New York Times about people who die alone. Sometimes it takes months of detective work to even find out such a person’s identity! Like the now-deceased gentleman in San Bernadino, these people often live in an apartment or condo complex where neighbors are unfamiliar with each other. Perhaps no one even knows they are dead until a neighbor smells an odor or notices that weeks’ worth of newspapers are piled up at the door.
My soul ached for those who passed away and had no one close enough in heart to care. It strengthened my resolve to get to know my neighbors better.
I don’t see them often, but Rodney plows our garden out of the kindness of his heart. Becky came running when she heard my screams as my little beagle Rocky was attacked. Andrew brings my packages over when the delivery service gets our addresses mixed up. Steve scraped my driveway once when it snowed. Debbie and Jane both took excellent care of Rocky when he ran away a few times before he had a secure enclosure.
I signed up to speak at a recent Walnut Cove Town Board meeting. When I saw there were several other speakers on the public comments signup sheet, I nearly backed out. Their subject was fracking—something I am passionately against. My subject seemed unimportant compared to theirs.
But suddenly it hit me how untrue that was, so I took my three minutes to address the Town’s leaders. My subject was community—or rather the need to provide a better sense of community for our young people.
For too long, our youth have had to leave the town limits to find anything interesting and/or wholesome to do on weekends. When the sun goes down, Walnut Cove doesn’t exactly roll up its sidewalks, but the town does take on an abandoned air at that point. The library is closed on weekend nights, there is no lighted park with bathrooms, there is no community center, there is no game room.
Where do kids go to hang out? They congregate in the Food Lion parking lot when the weather allows. There are some local restaurants that stay open until 10 p.m.—maybe a few until 11 p.m. Other than that, there is nothing to do.
I have mentioned this in a few columns, but I have not yet heard from those of you who are sitting on money you need to put to good use. Walnut Cove needs a community center. There are oodles of buildings just collecting dust and/or rushing toward dilapidation which could be used temporarily until a new building could be erected. Are the owners of these buildings reading this column? If so, please contact me.
Pine Hall is getting a splendid community center because they have a former citizen who is now wealthy and wants to give back to his community. Who will step up and leave a legacy in Walnut Cove? Even a simple metal multipurpose building with a kitchen area, retractable basketball goals and some classrooms would be better than nothing. We need someone to donate land for it as the first step. My contact information is at the end of this column; let me hear from you.
Why? Because community matters. And if we don’t build a sense of community among our youth now, we WILL pay the price one day. The old paths of community unity were good, they were right, they were the cohesive bonds that made for strong towns and cities. We must continue that sense of community on the new paths. Won’t you lend a hand?
Leslie Bray Brewer can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her blog is at http://timesofrefreshingontheoldpaths.wordpress.com.