#VT – Powerful conversations among neighbors going on these days. Here’s a sample posted by Guy to the Cambridge Front Porch Forum today…
Today’s Burlington Free Press had a thoughtful article on a declining middle class, as exemplified by a Jeffersonville family… My impressions:
1) Good for my Cambridge village neighbor Mike Moser for providing factual background and context for the story. As someone involved in helping Vermonters discuss important policy issues, I have found that the more relevant facts I have, the better. Sounds obvious but it is remarkable how easily I go straight to interpretation and opinion when what I really need is more information.
2) As I read it I said “thank God for my job” because just three years ago that’s where I was, working three iffy jobs to unsuccessfully scrape together enough money to pay the bills. My family and church communities were helpful in every way when I asked them, but what I really needed is what I finally got – a good paying job. This job gave my wife a good last two years of her life in more ways than one. Sometimes I think that government and non-profits would help people more if they would focus more on simply letting the job creators do their thing. Local applications of this might be – sorry if I offend – saying “no” a little less reflexively to new business proposals. I know there are tradeoffs, but as we weigh the pros and cons in our own minds and in forums like this, perhaps the life-saving creation of a few good jobs should count a little more.
3) As I read it I also said “thank God for the safety net” beyond church and family that provided health care and yes even food at the most difficult times. I made perhaps 10 visits to Lamoille County food shelfs back in the dark old days, swallowing my pride because it was my job to provide, and when my labor wasn’t enough, then my willingness to ask would have to suffice. It was hard, but it was made easier by the welcoming attitude of the staff, as well as by their willingness to make distinctions between food for the really needy (basic, locally donated foods bought with donated cash) and the less-in-demand grocery store perishables, and then finally the federal commodities. What also made it easier was, frankly, going to other towns. I simply don’t know if I could have gone to a Cambridge food shelf. It was so much less humiliating to go to Morrisville, and that has nothing to do with their attitude and everything to do with my vanity. It is a big step to go from feeling compassion for one of “them” to actually being one of “them”. I apologize if I sound politically incorrect, but that is how it felt. So I would recommend that food shelves not be in the least bit territorial. If someone lives in another town, there is a reason they go elsewhere, unless of course they just don’t know. One can say “you shouldn’t feel that way” but – I did, and I suspect others might also.
So, what can we do to help our underemployed neighbors? In a nutshell, here are three things I can think of, maybe you have ideas too: be more open to local job creation; buy services locally; and support the local safety net. FPF is a great tool for doing all three, but it’s up to us as individuals and as a community to go the extra mile, as a great man once said.
By the way, more than 40% of Cambridge households are FPF members.