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Meaning of Community

12/17/08 5:55PM By Mary Barrosse-Schwartz
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(HOST) This week during All Things Considered, VPR commentators are joining in a station-wide effort to reflect on how we can help each other make it through hard times. Community identity seems to be an important factor, and writer-commentator Mary Barrosse Schwartz marvels that while it may have been lost in many other places, a sense of community is apparently alive and well in Vermont.

(BARROSSE) For many this time of year has deep religious meaning. But even for those who don't celebrate the religious holidays, it's a time of giving. Certainly from October through December, the mail is full of letters from nonprofits seeking assistance - and with the economy reeling, the main difference this year is the intensity of those pleas.

Locally, we have many people who feel that since they don't have the ability to give large financial gifts they will give time and other resources towards helping families in their community. With job layoffs statewide, and unemployment creeping up, it's a year in which giving is making a difference for many.

In our area, there's a small group of women who quietly go about gathering food and gift items every year, to help families who are going through a rough time celebrate the holidays. The Community Share project has been around for many years, and it provides warm clothing and boots to dozens of families every December.

The project writes the needs of individual children on the back of angel ornaments, which hang on Christmas trees in Dorset and Manchester, to be taken by people who wish to make a donation. Following the description on the ornament, they buy new clothing and gifts and drop them at collection points. Local school children also participate in the project. They collect food for holiday gift baskets that accompany the toys and clothing.

Our area also had at least two events this fall for local people to come together to gather, cut, and split logs from trees blown down on public land.

Heating oil prices may have come down from earlier this year, but times are still hard, and this wood will help keep many homes warm this winter.

The people who organized this work are everyday people - just pitching in to help others. To me, that's what community is all about. Even the strongest among us sometimes need help.

We may go most of our lives being the wood-chopper or gift-giver, and still one day find ourselves simply in need of emotional or financial support.  No man is an island. Giving to others reminds us that even though we may be somewhat isolated from others in our daily lives, we are all responsible to each other in our communities.

Whoever said it was better to give than to receive really understood community. No matter how busy we are, or how small our contribution, our Vermont communities depend on the sharing we do in this season and through out the year.
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