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Get Rich Quick

Originally posted April 7, 2010)


Unless you are Jewish, you probably don't want to read about something that is going to make you feel guilty, but I urge you not to stop reading when you figure out where the column is heading this week. Small Town America exists on two planes. There is the one defined by size alone, and then there is the one that cleaves to an old fashioned ideal ~ a Grover’s Corner of the mind where people on the street know your name and everyone shares a common language built on the love of a landscape and the necessities of survival in it. It’s a fact that as the national highway system begat the suburb, a worker bee construct designed in abstentia by corporate interests, it knocked the uniqueness out of the organic way towns once grew. If Americans can be said to share a language these days, it is not much different from city to town, and reads like the menu of a fast food restaurant. Yet once upon a time no matter what the ethnic and religious breakdown, folks worked alongside one another to achieve civic-minded goals. When was the last time you even heard the word civic?

In this world of boring places to live, Healdsburg stands out as an anomaly. Modern in all the best ways, our citizenry still encourages agrarian traditions that do not take the landscape for granted. I know from participating on the Planning Commission the past three years that many of us care deeply about what is built in our town; there is a passion to protect a diversity of interests in a fight against sameness, and a real commitment to see that those less fortunate have a place to live and food to eat. I love living here for all these reasons.

Even if we accept that self preservation will always rule our DNA, it’s important to admit that in shaking off the leadership role religion and strong community values once played in daily life, we have also lost the tithing gene that helped balance our world views and ultimately made us better people. I’m not talking about just being a good Samaritan, but being a volunteer. Giving something back to your community, not because it will enhance your business, but simply because it’s the right thing to do. Whether you need to sing a ‘do unto others’ hymn or Om your way through a ‘what goes around comes around’ mantra to get there, you need to get back there. We all need to get back there.

Communities that don’t know one another on a personal level have no chance whatsoever surviving, much less flourishing, as unique entities that can protect their quality of life. The key is to mix with everyone in your community to build consensus, not stagnant with your own views until you can’t see the shit from the shinola. Watching congress “debate” the Health Care Initiative, the display of petty self serving stupid arguments that have stood in the place of reasoned dialogue in Washington should have made you sick ~ no matter who you think should ultimately pay for making you better.

On the Planning Commission I debate with people whom I often disagree with, but I’ve learned more from talking civilly about our disagreements than I have in conversation with friends whose political values I more or less share. OK we aren’t trying to solve national or international problems on the city council or the planning commission, but in a small but even more powerful way we are affecting the lives we live, side by side, every day. What I love about participating in a local body politic is that the only real litmus test you need to pass to participate is that you don’t put self-interest first above the good of the community.

But hey, forget the sense in all that. Maybe you don’t give a damn about the town the kids will someday inherit. On a singular karmic level there is enormous emotional return on tithing time ~ not money ~ to work amongst your neighbors ~ especially the very young and very old. It feels good. It costs nothing. I call those rare situations win win.

As many of us are busy planning our summer schedules right now it’s the perfect opportunity to dial in donating time to a community organization that needs you. Take the kids ~ in no time their schools will hopefully be giving them community service and with your help they will be old hands and get the better gigs. If you’re reading this and you live in Healdsburg I’m including a list of some truly worthy ongoing programs that could sorely use your help.

Wherever you live, know that your social services are under attack right now, which makes it the perfect time to step up, even~ no, especially~ if you’ve never volunteered for anything before. Just a few hours a week can make a world of difference to someone’s life. (Back to self-interest: someday that person could be you)

After School Program help kids K-5 with their homework at a crucial learning time in their lives. One hour a week between 4-5 at the Healdsburg Community Center at Foss Creek (formerly Foss Creek Elementary School) Contact: Sonia Drown Rec Manager for City of Healdsburg

Healdsburg Senior Center Always needs Meals on Wheels drivers. They are also seeking individuals with talents they will teach the seniors and they will tailor a class around your skills Finally, they need Computer Tutors so seniors can learn enough basic skills to communicate with their grandkids! This is a lifeline. Taught at the Sr Center Computer Center Contact: Sonia Drown Rec Manager for City of Healdsburg

Adopt a Park: new program citywide. Incredibly, this is a new citywide program wherein you can customize your specific interests or talents to helping keep the parks humming. Running out of roses to prune? Come prune the city's! Contact: Matthew Thompson Parks Manager for City of Healdsburg

Healdsburg Ridge ~ our new 150 acre open space at the edge of town needs volunteers for trail monitoring and special projects. A gorgeous place to spend time. WE ARE SO LUCKY TO HAVE THIS. Contact: Matthew Thompson Parks Manager for City of Healdsburg

The Construction and Sustainability Academy (CASA) at Healdsburg High, is a green building program for high school students, is nearing completion on a fantastic classroom with everything in it. The entire project has been put together by volunteers but they need 3-4 more with painting experience. Contact: Ray Holly

The Healdsburg Food Pantry always needs hands to help stock and deliver, is now accepting fresh food from farmers. Mayor Woods reminds us that they also do Sunday Dinner at  So many ways to contribute here that really make a difference. Contact: 1505 Healdsburg Ave. 
(707) 433 3663


All text and photos, Jil Hales (unless otherwise noted)