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Communities Come Together After Disaster

Columnist Lisa Bigelow pauses to admire the way her community works together.

Most Sundays, our family spends the day in a flurry of weekend activity. To some extent, this past weekend was no different. But the darkening sky, persistent breeze and skittering leaves reminded us that Hurricane Sandy was fast approaching.

As we pondered why, why had we not bought a small generator yet, we filled the bathtubs with water and the cars with gas. My husband cooked. I worked, located the candles and did laundry. And the kids celebrated the announcement that school was canceled.  

We tinkered away on our individual projects at home, and my fingers typed furiously as I raced against a sure-thing electrical outage. Taking a break to check my email, I scanned the inbox to find an unopened note from a friend reminding our street’s residents that she is our neighborhood block captain. 

And although I originally planned to write about the fiscal cliff in Washington D.C. this week, I suddenly thought, ugh. Regular readers know I love politics and I really never tire of learning and writing about it. But with the weather eyes of the eastern seaboard firmly put to sea, why not focus on what’s working right here?

Weston, where our family lives, is an extraordinary community. Neither my husband nor I have ever lived anywhere quite like it, and it’s not because of the winding lanes, stone walls and Peter’s Market. Everyone we know – quite literally, everyone we know – contributes time and resources to making our little corner of the world a better place.

From coaching sports to raising funds for the less fortunate to working with the schools to make our public schools the best they can be, Westonites are actively engaged in the community. Parents work backstage at ballet school and volunteer for Safe Rides and Meals on Wheels. It’s more than writing a check, although plenty of folks do that, too, and it’s much appreciated.

Last year our town suffered not-insignificant damage from Hurricane Irene and the freak Halloween snowstorm. Many residents lost power for a full week twice. Schools were closed. To say there was a lack of continuity in the weeks between Labor Day and Thanksgiving is a gross understatement.

In the aftermath of the storms, the community came together to discuss what we could do to make events such as these easier for storm-weary residents. The block captain idea resulted, and each street anointed one person to make sure that every neighbor is safe and cared-for in the event of an emergency.

Hence the email from my friend.

It is a relief to know that even though we may all be without power soon, that if push came to shove then our community has a real plan in place with actionable steps. In addition to the neighborhood block captains, Weston keeps a school open as a comfort station and staffs it with volunteers. The library stays open. It’s not the Ritz, but it’s enough.

Once the storm passes and the wreckage clears, we’ll be back to feverish partisan politics and the upcoming election. Yet I like to think that perhaps Hurricane Sandy is mother nature’s not-so-gentle reminder to us of the things that really matter. Community. Friendship. Sticking together. 

I bet Weston’s not the only town with extraordinary, selfless residents who, if asked, would deny that what they do is a big deal. Except, of course, that it is.

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