The news last week that a convicted sex offender was arrested lurking near the Teaticket School is a stark and troubling reminder of how much our society – and our community – has changed. The events since then, both those related to that event and several I observed in my daily travels throughout town, though, reminded me that our town of Falmouth is still very much a community, close-knit and supportive, united and caring.
After the discovery of the 30-year old predator through reports of a person smoking in the woods behind the 7-11 on Teaticket Highway, across from what used to be Donahue’s Grocery Store where my brother worked, newly minted Superintendent Bonny Gifford acted swiftly with Police Chief Ed Dunne to reach out to a justifiably concerned public. They provided a truly valuable and precious commodity – information – and turned a potential crisis in public confidence into a local government success story of collaboration and effective outreach.
Those events made me think back to my childhood, growing up in Davisville’s Fisherman’s Cove in the 1970’s. My mom pioneered a program called “Helping Hands,” where neighbors displayed a bright orange hand in their window, symbolizing that their home was a safe place for a kid to go if they were lost or in trouble. I remember Falmouth Police Officer Andy Nyari and “Safety Officer” Bob Ronayne pitching this idea as they handed out Halloween collection bags at East Falmouth School under the supportive and kind eye of Principal Ray Kenney. We were a community that came together and protected and supported our own.
As I contemplated over the weekend on those incidents and the change they represent, in our society where discussion of predators in our midst has become daily conversation, and in our community where, like any place in our great nation, the ugly side of psychological disorders and a mental health system that puts people in need of care back on the street in deference to insurance companies, is tangible and reflected in our local challenges, my thoughts turned from lament to optimism as the weekend unfolded. What began as a solemn reflection on the challenges of our society ended as a hopeful reflection on the sense of community and togetherness - the “helping hand” that still envelops our town – our Falmouth.
My mood makeover began on Saturday, as Donna and I were browsing through Hubbard’s paint on Main Street, picking out colors for the walls of our new home. I never knew there were so many shades of white. As we began to sink into an overwhelming sea of cloud white, bright white, sailcloth, and dove white color swatches, a kind face appeared from around the paint samples. We were tentative at first, not sure if this random helper was someone just keeping warm in the paint store, or was perhaps a heartless interior decorating guerilla, looking to intentionally recommend clashing colors for our living room to feed her own sadistic sense of humor. Nancy August was neither of those. She is actually an accomplished and successful interior designer who not only took time to chat with us about appropriate colors, she actually came to our place on Palmer Ave., walked around and visited, and gave us some great ideas and suggestions. For the record, we chose sailcloth and super white.
Our encounter with Nancy, who summered in Falmouth her whole life, and now enjoys weekends here with her family when she’s not helping to beautify interiors in New York, reminded me of the random acts of kindness that still abound within our borders.
After that enjoyable encounter, we headed over to Ideal Floor Covering next to Nedo Puliti’s Slice of Italy in the old “Hearth & Kettle” plaza, looking for some tile for the bathroom. The possibilities were as endless as the paint. Luckily, another kind soul appeared to help us out. Owner Mark Woods took time to provide personal service, guiding us to our eventual choice (white). This encounter was not notable because the store owner took time to help a customer, it was noteworthy because this successful entrepreneur, who has launched prosperous stores in Manhattan and the Hamptons, still takes time to interact, converse, and engage with people in his hometown of Falmouth. We chatted about his years of service on the Finance Committee, and his hopes for better days ahead for the behavior at Town Hall Square. Like Nancy just a few minutes before, Mark reminded me of what’s right with Falmouth. Mark has built a flourishing floor business on the notion – the ideal – that Falmouth is first. I left with a smile – and some new tile, my mood makeover now complete.
Mom’s “helping hand” effort from East Falmouth in the 70’s may have faded away, but our community still has many people willing to lend one. My faith in our town – in our community – endures.