Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Minute Men in a Digital Age

The Minute Men are part of the history of our region and a national treasure. They were, if you will, the original first responders even before we were a country. In the two dozen decades since we declared our independence we've had minute men and women of every kind for every challenge. Be it in response to attacks of war through economic calamity to catastrophic acts of nature, their response has always been immediate and unquestioning.

I'm thinking maybe we should put some time back on the clock and see if there are still minute men among us. If we start at our local level and right our own ship we can be a partner for those in the state capitol looking to find a way back to fiscal responsibility and prosperity, two hallmarks of Connecticut politics that have gotten lost in the noise of recent years. And then together with other states, across the country, we can go national.

Here in Norwich we have a target-rich environment for those wishing to extend a helping hand. Newspapers have been reporting on volunteers with the Haitian Health Foundation and other groups who are working both here and in Haiti to ameliorate suffering and deprivation on a scale most of us can't even imagine. Today is the one year anniversary of the Haitian earthquake and this afternoon's calendar was filled with remembrance ceremonies and fundraisers before the snowstorm forced reschedulings.

And there's so much else across the city we can help one another with.

There isn't a Norwich neighborhood that doesn't have a household not in need of a shoveled walkway or a friendly face that can visit with a snow-bound senior citizen for some conversation and some caring or who could read a child an after-school story so a care-giver had fifteen minutes of 'me time' before starting supper. None of that costs any of us anything but its worth is incalculable and impact beyond measurement.

Speaking of children, the Board of Education has regular monthly meetings in Kelly Middle School (yesterday's got in just ahead of the snow storm; would do wonders for the Jack London novels in the school libraries, I would think). Here's your chance to see how far along the construction and renovation has come and to also learn more about where the Norwich Public School system is heading and hear firsthand about what our children and teachers are involved in on a daily basis. Perhaps, most importantly, it's your opportunity to make your voice for informed choice heard.

We spend so much time talking about downtown economic development it's hard to remember it's also where people live and work. Too many of us use the Chelsea District as a short-cut to get us from one place to another. Too late we discover we're nowhere at all.

And sometimes, we're so focused on just downtown it's hard for someone who lives on Jail Hill or in Taftville (to name just two places) to believe anyone, anywhere cares about his street or her neighborhood. Sometimes we really are ten villages in search of a city. And sometimes we get tired of trying to carry everyone on our back and forget we don't have to do it alone-that's why we've chosen to live in our city so we can help one another.

"If you feel discouraged there's a lack of color here. This is fact, not fiction for the first time in years." A lot of what needs to be done takes resources we don't have right now and figuring out how to acquire them will be part of that job. Many others cannot happen overnight but will take weeks or months, and in some cases, years. But other things in the immediate here and now only take a minute, if we have the time and the desire to help.
-bill kenny

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