In reading an account last week about the closing of Chacer’s on Franklin Street, I wondered (maybe feared is a better word) if I were hearing the tolling of John Donne’s bell across the city, and where we might be when the tolling ended. And then I remembered a favorite pick-me-up line from Stephen Kaggwa, whose a Ugandan restaurateur now living in Minneapolis, Minnesota (pause) whose insight encourages me more often than I’m comfortable counting.
“Try and fail,” he once offered, “but don’t fail to try.”
I’m considered a very trying person by many whose opinions are highly regarded (mostly by themselves) and Kaggwa’s larger point is spot-on, you cannot win if you do not play. We often fear failure so much that we’d rather not even make an attempt (the difference between a try and a triumph is usually the amount of ‘umph’) thus dooming ourselves before we start.
Here in Norwich (and I suspect this is true across the country and around the world) there’s often an undercurrent of dis and mistrust between the governed and the government based on a near-genius inability to openly and honestly speak to and with one another. We don’t listen to understand but, rather, to reply and rebut.
We can build bridges or we can build walls, often from the same materials-it depends on our intentions and perspectives. One of the better tools we have is the City’s municipal website. It’s both an example and a product of an effort by people from across the community who had little more in common than a desire to make a good idea a better tool in redesigning Norwich’s world-wide calling card.
I enjoyed being a part of that group-even if I suspect some of them had a little less enjoyment because of me, but the city’s website is more than a gearhead’s delight. Its utility, from answering questions about paying property taxes through maintaining calendars on both municipal meetings and community events, is complemented by its capability (used to be potential, but now its energy is being realized) to be a platform for conversations with and between all of us, elected and the electorate.
I’ve been reading Mayor Hinchey’s blog (disclaimer: I didn’t vote for her, but as was the case with her predecessor (and those before him as well), I want her to succeed because when she does, so, too, do we all). It’s a great way to get unfiltered information, directly from the source at City Hall (so to speak) and is a terrific use of technology and connectivity to create a more informed public.
Her blog is still new and I won’t tell you she’s found the keys to the universe in the engine of old boxcar, but she has made an excellent start in her telling of The Story of Us. Her patience and perspective challenges me to remember that when you don’t know where you’ll be in five years, you really don’t know where you are now.