What kind of community are we?

To the Editor:

I want to talk about the kind of community I want to live in.

To me, what defines a community isn't how much you have, but how much you give. To me, what defines a community is how we take care of each other. To me, what defines a community is the Kiwanis club working on the pool so that all the kids can swim for free.

To me, what defines a community is taking pride in our institutions, and in our traditions. To me, what defines a community is when we all turn out on Main Street to honor Joey Fortin coming home.

To me, what defines a community is when the Museum makes lemonade out of lemons, and turns a construction mess into a learning opportunity and yellow busloads of kids get a real life lesson.

To me, what defines a community is when we come together on Front Porch Forum to help families burned out of their home on Pearl Street.

To me, what defines a community is when we don't say "let someone else do it," but pitch in and help.

And most importantly, what defines a community is how we take care of those who need us the most -- our children, our elderly, and our disabled.

It costs money to take care of each other. Nobody likes paying taxes, and least of all we don't like paying taxes for stuff we don't want to think about needing ourselves, like hospital care, or a nursing home, or broken roads and bridges.

And all too often, when we think about paying taxes, we get angry, and we want to take it out on somebody, and make them stop. But when we take it out on the children, when we cut the spending for our schools in our anger about something else we don't like -- the war in Afghanistan, or the tar sands pipeline, or Vermont's health care plan -- you name it -- we wind up hurting more than just the people who run the schools.

We wind up hurting the children.

"We can't afford it!" we say, "Cut the budget!" So we do. And what do we get?

Well, we each get a little more cash in our pockets, which adds up to a lot less in the school's account, a little larger classroom for the first-graders, a little more deferred maintenance.

And in the long run? Pretty soon everyone who works at the school starts to feel that the Town doesn't care about the kids, or the teachers, or the school. And what that does, and it doesn't take long -- only 8 or 10 years of constant budget cuts -- and pretty soon the kids, and their parents, believe it, too. And then everyone believes it.

But you know what? It's a lie!

We have the best kids there are. We have the kids who live here, in our Town, who will grow up here, who will become the hardware store owners, the newspaper delivery boys and girls, the basketball players, the workers at Weidmann, the Olympic medalists, the guys on the Fire Department, the nurses at the hospital, the people who work, and play, and shop, and have their own families, and pay social security taxes, and federal income taxes, and sales taxes, and yes, who buy their own homes, and pay the mortgage and the property taxes, so their kids, and their grandkids, can go to a school they can be proud of. Some of them will even grow up to be teachers.

I want to be proud of the St. Johnsbury Schools again. I was proud, when my late wife Sally taught in the St. Johnsbury Schools 30 years ago, and for the 20 years my three kids attended the Summer Street School, the Adams School, the Center School, the Portland Street School, the Middle School, and St. Johnsbury Academy.

I am willing to pay a little more for my school. I am willing to pay a little more for my community. I am willing to work a little harder, to volunteer a little longer, and to stay a little later, for the kids in this community.

How about you?

John Perry

St. Johnsbury, Vt.

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