By Suzanne Sparrow Watson
Without realizing it, we fill important places in each other’s lives. It’s that way with the guy at the corner grocery, the mechanic at the local garage, the family doctor, teachers, neighbors, coworkers. Good people who are always “there,” who can be relied upon in small, important ways. People who teach us, bless us, encourage us, support us, uplift us in the dailiness of life. We never tell them. I don’t know why, but we don’t. Robert Fulghum
You may remember Robert Fulghum as the author of “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten“. In 1988 he published that best-selling book in which he outlined many of the lessons we learned as young children – share everything, clean up your own mess, don’t take things that aren’t yours – and he beseeched us to apply those principles to our adult lives. Among the most salient points he made was: “When you go out into the world watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.”
I was drawn back to Reverend Fulghum’s book this past week for two reasons. First, I am reading The Rise and Fall of 9/11, written in 2019 by Mitchell Zuckoff, a former Boston Globe reporter. The book is an in-depth account of the people and events of that horrible day. At times it has been painful to read, learning about everyday people in the air and on the ground, knowing what their ultimate fate would be. But it has also been inspiring, a good reminder that people are generous and giving; there are plenty of people who look out for their fellow man, even to the detriment of their own well-being. Reading about so many selfless acts reminded me of Fulghums’ advice – there were many examples that day of “holding hands and sticking together“.
Much has changed in the ensuing twenty years. Technology has changed our lives for the better, and occasionally, for the worse. The tech boom has altered almost everything we do, and in the process has created a super-wealthy class, rich beyond what any previous generation could dream of, much less achieve. Unfortunately, for some, their wealth brings with it a sense of entitlement. Which brings me to the second reason I pulled out Robert Fulghum’s book this week.
Each year since the mid-1980’s my husband and I have visited Sun Valley, Idaho. We love it for it’s beauty, but also because of it’s “laid back”, mountain town vibe. Although the city was founded by a wealthy man (Averell Harriman) and has historically attracted movie stars and business titans, it has still maintained a low-key, respectful culture. So I was distressed this past week to read an article in the local Sun Valley paper about changes to the friendly ethos.
Like many rural areas, Sun Valley saw a significant rise in population as a result of the COVID pandemic. In fact, real estate sales hit an all-time high last year, with prices increasing as much as 52% in some neighborhoods. Most of the new residents and visitors are coming from Seattle and Southern California and, unfortunately, they have not taken the time to learn about the town and how its citizens are expected to behave. City leaders said the growth has fostered some negative changes: trash and dog waste left on trails, aggressive driving, speeding cyclists who don’t yield to others and rude treatment of restaurant workers. The owner of one local eatery decided to close on Saturdays because of weekend customers’ poor treatment of staff.
The city council is now pondering a new marketing campaign to “school” new residents and visitors alike on the expected norms of this peaceful little valley. The current proposal is, “Don’t change Sun Valley. Let Sun Valley change you.” I think that’s a fine start, but maybe the city leaders should consider distributing copies of Rev. Fulghum’s book as people enter town. It would appear that a lot of people have forgotten what they learned in kindergarten.