What It Means to Care
During an interesting conversation, last night, a long-time Tiverton resident suggested to me that members of Tiverton Citizens for Change “don’t care about Tiverton.” The storyline is that we’re newcomers simply looking out for our own financial interests, as opposed to townies willing, I suppose, to put the town’s needs before their own.
With a broad brush, I’d suggest that the dichotomy does not actually exist. Plenty of lifelong residents vote and advocate according to interests no less narrow than than those of even the most selfish reformer. For others, “what’s good for the town” lines up suspiciously well with “what’s good for me.” And for still others, the interest is a sense of power and control over the town, which is hardly a selfless motivation.
But it is a question worth asking one’s self: Do I care about my town?
To be honest, I moved to Tiverton mainly because I was priced off of Aquidneck Island. The islander mentality is real, with its sense that crossing a bridge is somehow different than going down a short stretch of road. In my years here, however, getting to know people, getting lost on the way to this or that, riding along over every road as a UPS driver’s helper one Christmas season, I’ve come to appreciate that, to the extent that circumstances forced me away from where I wanted to be, they pushed me to a wonderful town.
It’s a wonderful town with some problems, no doubt, in a wonderful state with its own problems, too, but it’s easy and attractive to imagine one’s life unfolding within it. Clearly, I’ve invested myself enough to actively try to improve it.
But is that “caring”? I don’t know; if I’m priced out of my house, I’ll be out of here. On the other side of hope, if we were to succeed in getting the town and the state back to sustainability, with an open government and prosperous society, I can’t say that I’d be doing much by way of community activities.
To be sure, it’s been so long since my stroll through life turned to trudging that I can’t imagine what it must be like to have the time to volunteer for anything other than dire necessities. Somebody else, last night, recommended a particular stretch of forest that would reward hiking, and I could only mark it down as something to do when there’s room in my 18-19-hour days for activities resembling relaxation. If I had time for leisurely exploration, perhaps I’d make time for community service. We’re a long way from that reality.
In the meantime, I’ll say this: I care about Tiverton, and about Rhode Island, enough that I want people to be able to live here. I care about it enough to strive to prevent hard times from scraping it bare. Some who feel proprietorship of towns wish to preserve them in a state of fond once-ago, behind glass, as it were, in a state of glory. Such displays are wonderful for figurines — not so much for human beings.
The people in a place add its color and give it purpose, and I’d propose that if you care about your hometown, you care even about those who are changing its face, even about those who are passing through.