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
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
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