They say it is easier to love humanity as a whole than to love oneâs neighbor. Loving humanity requires a general attitude. Loving a neighbor often requires action.
Last Saturday, more than a hundred teams of workers swung into action on behalf of neighbors in western Connecticut and New York State as part of the 17th Annual AmeriCares HomeFront program, which improved 105 properties from rooftops to roadside curbs. Three of those properties were in Newtown. In addition, Newtown Youth Services conducted its 5th Annual Independent Living Day, sending young volunteers to 22 homes in town to help senior citizens and others who are disabled or in need with indoor and outdoor household projects, which seem to sprout like dandelions at this time of year. More chores were probably done on May 1 around town than on any other day of the year. The hundreds of volunteers representing churches, civic groups, and families deserve our sincere thanks.
May 1, however, is just one day in the year and the Mayday signals keep coming throughout the year from senior citizens living alone, single parents swamped with kids and working hours, and people with disabilities trying desperately to continue living in their own homes. Sometimes those signals are as subtle as unread newspapers on the lawn or as blatant as a pained cry from a hip broken in a backyard fall. Our response to those signals tells the story of what kind of town we are.
Newtown has long recognized the value of having a diverse community, where elders have a place and people of modest means and limited resources are welcome. Tax relief for senior citizens, affordable housing incentives in the zoning regulations, and the social services safety net only go so far to address the difficulties many of our residents face in trying to make ends meet in our increasingly expensive town. Often decisive factor in whether they can stay or must go is a good neighbor willing to help out from time to time. So get to know your neighbors, whether they are in need or not. Watch out for them. Weâll all get a better town for it, and weâll all make some new friends.