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Why Can't We All Just Get Along?

Commissioner Dianne Walbrecker

My husband accuses me of being a naVve optimist, saying I won't be satisfied until everyone is holding hands and singing Kumbaya. I plead guilty.

However, those 7 little words uttered by Rodney King years ago in Los Angeles also pack a lot of truth. When we moved to Emmitsburg in 1991, I was delighted that our family had found a close-knit community that worked together and accomplished so much with volunteer efforts. 

During the decade of the 90s, there were wonderful community events such as a month-long celebration when businesses held open houses with cookies and punch or other treats to welcome Christmas. Service clubs worked together to provide local children with fantastic parties.

The Community Day (4th of July) celebration, the Halloween parade down Main Street, and the Mason-Dixon Festival were all joint efforts between local clubs, the town office, and a myriad of volunteers. Everyone pitched in to make the events work.

The town Comprehensive Plan was rewritten with input from representatives from the businesses, large institutions in and near town, and citizens. The meetings were not always peaceful; many members had strong opinions. However, the end result was collaboration.

No one group led the charge or had its claim to all the credit (or blame) for any of these community efforts. In fact, it really didn't matter all that much which set of groups worked together to pull off these events.

I fear that something's gone wrong. Local newspapers are filled with angry, accusatory letters. Articles discuss fractured groups battling internally as well as against other groups. Claims and counter claims, rumors and half-truths are rampant. Lawsuits are evoked as a way to settle issues, rather than working together to find solutions. People take adamant positions without even asking if there is a better way to accomplish goals. It's not any specific group; there are problems enough to go around.

When the atmosphere in a town gets this tense, people stop looking for solutions and start pointing fingers. That's the wrong direction.

Of course, good things are still happening throughout the area. Not all is lost by any means. One coalition is developing Welcome Packages for new residents. Another coalition is taking a building that has been a community eyesore and renovating it for a Food Bank.

Ask any Emmitsburg resident what they love about this town, this area, and most will say the small-town atmosphere. No one group or person has all the answers. Coalitions take longer to solve problems but the solutions they find generally work much better. We need to put that into practice now. We have some awesome challenges facing us, but we also have incredible opportunities to shape our community in a way that keeps the small-town, friendly atmosphere we want yet provides the services and jobs we need.

Why can't we all just get along? It's good advice for all of us.