Be honest, now. Are you tired of reading and hearing about how wonderful a place to live in is North Grenville? Forget it! This is a wonderful place in which to live, and you just have to accept the fact. Seriously, though, I know that most people think their community is the best, and boosterism is a common complaint (boosterism: the act of promoting, or “boosting” a town, city, or organization, with the goal of improving public perception of it), but we are in a position to simply state the facts to prove our claim.
A few years ago, I might not have been as positive in my comments. Back then, it seemed we were a rather immature place, led by people with little or no vision, who tended to ignore the wealth of experience, energy, commitment and good vibes that kept this municipality going. There was a fear that, as we grew in population, we might lose some of that community spirit and become a mere dormitory for Ottawa and Brockville. After all, that is where most people around here went to work, and often did their shopping.
But that fear is being dispelled, slowly perhaps, but nevertheless surely. We had an insight into the potential of this community two decades ago, during the Ice Storm. People checked on their elderly neighbours. Businesses opened their places to the community to help keep them fed. Remember the B&H handing people flashlights and running a tab for customers? Remember Grahame’s Bakery using their oven to cook food for people? Remember the W. B. George Centre, full of cots and volunteers?
Over the almost thirty years I’ve lived here, there have been many similar acts of community kindness, some of which I still can’t talk about in order to protect people’s privacy or maintain the secrets of their good deeds. And it was not just in difficult times that we showed what we’re made of. The first few years of the original Dandelion Festival consisted of almost ten hours of local talent performing for friends and neighbours. School kids, singers, dancers, choirs, all the variegated colours of North Grenville came together on what is now the site of the Municipal Centre to have a good time and celebrate who and what we are. The same held true for the Forestry Fair, Hey Days, and so many other fantastic celebrations.
Now here we are in the middle of the greatest health and social crisis any of us have ever experienced, and we’re rising to the occasion once again. There has been a new atmosphere of community involvement since the last municipal election, and that has spread throughout the region. People are taking care of each other, even when they have to stand apart.
But here I have to get personal. When the lockdowns started, we at the North Grenville Times wondered how long we could continue to publish, given that almost all of our revenue came from advertising, and most advertisers had nothing to advertise because they were closed or business was down. Of course, it may yet happen that we’ll have to adapt to circumstances, but not yet, thanks to this amazing community.
It started with our own staff, willing to continue work without pay until the government grants came through for them. Then the Municipality stepped forward, guaranteeing advertising for a couple of months, to help us continue publishing. Along with federal and provincial government input, we were able to put out a weekly paper. Then the people of the municipality came forward with a wonderful number of subscriptions to support us. I cannot tell you properly how much this meant, and means, to us.
So, a very heartfelt “thank you” to every one of you. This entire community has so much to be thankful for, so much history, heritage, goodwill, energy and vivacity. No, we’re not perfect, by any means. We still have people who cannot help being mean and nasty on social media. We still have those who know how to use the system for their own benefit. We still have the racist, the bigot, the mean-spirited, the nativist. Which means that we are human. Which means that we continue to depend on one another in the hard times, and look to one another to celebrate the good times. We have, each one of us, a unique personality that may not always get along with some other unique personalities, but that’s natural. It is the range of unique personalities that make any community what it is. We need the outgoing, vivacious social types, as well as the grumpy curmudgeons who fill some role or other in society (as one of those, I’m not sure what that role actually is at times). As Gra- ham Nash once wrote: “Our house is a very, very, very fine house!”
For now, we work through this strange and challenging time in our history, we can rise to the occasion, fulfill our role in this chapter of our common story, knowing that this, too, shall pass. And we shall overcome.