An Ode to Community Builders


There’s a woman who volunteers at my kids’ school, let’s call her Claudia – she’s leads the PTO and she volunteers with a lot of programs the school runs. She also leads my daughter’s girl scout troop. I was talking with another woman who was housebound for the last couple of months after breaking her ankle and whose daughter is in the same troop. She mentioned that Claudia had come to her house to help clean during her convalescence.

It struck me the other day, while Claudia was carrying boxes of girl scout cookies through the snow from her car to the table the girls had set up outside the toy store, that it’s really remarkable how much the local community relies on her. It seems that whenever the school or the local kids have a need, she’s willing to step up and see it through.

Even more amazing: she does a really good job! She’s not pushy or showy about it, but she works hard to be of service and the reward is a school and neighborhood that makes life better for the families and kids who live in it.

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Here’s another: Less dramatic, but just as cool here in New England. This afternoon, my daughter and I were doing laundry. Our building has a laundry room that everyone shares (you may remember that it’s a highly policed laundry), so I’ve often run into people there. When we went to switch the clothes over to the dryer, a woman, who I’ll call Nadine, was there. I’d seen her at the school and met her briefly once before (also in the laundry room as I recall) and she’d told me she has a kid at the same school as my kids, but in 3rd grade, rather than 2nd or 4th.

Anyway, today, after I asked her to remind me of her name, she introduced herself to my daughter and said to us, “I’m just gonna come right out and say that we should be friends.” As people who are new to town, I was struck by how nice it is to be welcomed so clearly and directly. This is probably especially true here in New England, where recalcitrance is an art. Don’t get me wrong, New Englanders are as genuine as they come and they tend to avoid being busybodies more than people in other parts of the country, which is cool. But the flip side of that is that it can be tough to get to know people when you’re new.

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So, three cheers for Claudia, Nadine, and all the other people out there who step up and help create a sense of community! They’re more important than they realize.