I used to think I had all the answers. I suppose to a certain degree, we all housed a certain degree of that youthful hubris, believing, sometimes blindly, in the supremacy of our own thoughts. At some point, though, we realize in a bit of Socratic self-discovery, that maybe the answers to the questions of life lie outside our own heads. Part of that realization causes, allows us really, to admit times when we simply do not have answers.
Now is such an occasion. With the news this week that long time civic volunteer and local government stalwart Jim Vieira resigned from the Board of Health, it simply added another difficult chapter to the ongoing tragic tome of our local government, and left me with the as-yet unanswered question - what's going on here? What is wrong?
For as long as I've been involved with the Town of Falmouth, Jim Vieira has been a fixture at 59 Town Hall Square. In fact, when I arrived on the Falmouth political landscape 18 or so years ago, Jim had already been a volunteer for more than a decade. He is one of those rare finds in local government that offers selfless and countless hours out of a singular commitment to the community and a genuine desire to simply make Falmouth a better place. To lose that level of volunteer dedication is painful, really. To lose it for the reasons provided by Vieira himself is nothing short of heartbreaking.
In his comments to the Enterprise on his resignation from the Board of Health, Jim cited his immense displeasure at the way things are going in town, I suspect specifically in the corner conference room and its environs. This native Falmouthite has given more than three decades of service to his community - to our community - and is walking away out of disgust.
We must ask ourselves - what is going on here? What is wrong? We must also be prepared to be part of the solution to that identified problem.
The issue at the forefront of the health board's current struggles is the struggle over enforcement of our local solid waste regulations, and the reluctance and refusal of one company to comply. That conundrum, however, is just a symptom of the disease. Vieira also mentioned the recent cranberry wars, and the "poor attitude" of local officials, volunteers and paid employees alike, as additional boils that need to be lanced to make this sickly patient of a town on the road to better health.
As a fan and admirer of Jim Vieira, let me be the first to offer thanks for a job well done, gratitude for undying dedication to the community, and regret for an unhappy ending. The task is ours collectively, though, to make sure that this is the unhappy ending of a chapter in this book, not its tragic conclusion. Why not use this lesson from Jim as a teachable moment to make our community better?
Look around. Watch some meetings and talking head shows on FCTV. Read my column and others. Spend a morning with the coffee shop prognosticators. The answer to the questions - what is going on and what is wrong - is simple. The problem is right in front of us and it IS us.
I think the failure of our chief elected officials to set a positive tone has pervaded the community to such a degree that a cloud of malaise and discontent has enveloped us - individually and collectively. Changing our form of government may help, but is not a panacea. Changing elected officials may help, but won't completely cure what ails us. As people who care about this community, we need to take the Vieira example of 30 years of giving back without the expectation of anything in return other than the contentment of knowing we did a little to improve our collective plight - and perhaps a thank you. Let's take back the soul of this community, one smile at a time. Let's cure the disease of malaise with the medicine of gratitude - gratitude based on the deep-seeded belief that this is an extraordinary community and it is our responsibility to keep it that way.
How do we begin? When you see someone volunteering this weekend, say thanks. When you walk into town hall to pay your excise, greet someone you don't know with a smile. When you are walking on the Shining Sea and see a wrapper or soda can on the ground, pick it up.
Pay it forward - Falmouth style. The cure begins now. What will you do to help?
This column is reprinted from the Falmouth Enterprise.