A community needs a soul if it is to become a true home for human beings. You, the people must give it this soul.” John Paul II (1920-2005), Pope of the Roman Catholic Church from 1978-2005
This past weekend our town came together to pay tribute to the short life of a little boy named Brant Hamilton, who tragically passed away from a brain tumor in 2005. In his honor, our community now hosts the annual Brant’s Great Pumpkin Race and Festival, which raises money to be given away to children’s charities. Unfortunately, I never got a chance to know Brant, as he was called home to the Lord before we moved here. Nevertheless, I see that his spirit lives on in our town as it hosts this event every year in his name. A little boy continues to bring hope and joy even beyond his death because a community chose to come together in order to celebrate his life.
What makes a community? How do you define it? Is it something that is created, regulated, or funded? Or does it happen organically, within the hearts of the very people who live within it? I believe it is the latter, as a community cannot exist without the love and care of its residents for their neighbors. We care for each other in our town, and that is not something that can be replicated by government mandate. This is why I believe that government being in charge of the care and maintenance of the down trodden is so short sighted. Government is cold, lifeless, and isolated from the very thing that helps create and sustain community- the people within it. It short-circuits the greatness and creativity of those neighbors that live around the individual in need, and separates them from the non-tangible benefits that come with more localized help – genuine compassion and connection.
To justify further pillage from our paychecks, government would have us believe that without them, nothing would ever get done, nothing would ever get created, problems would not ever be solved, and people would not ever be helped. In other words, it believes that greatness only rests in the “benevolent”, “guiding” hands of government, for its lowly citizens are too incapable of it. Yet, when I look around, especially this past weekend, I see that this is so not true. In fact, I dare say, that when great things are accomplished by the American people, it often happens in spite of, and usually in direct opposition to, the meddling hand of government. Imagine what our community could accomplish if we were given more control over our lives and our money! You need look no further than Brant’s Great Pumpkin Festival and Race to see a window into the compassionate heart of the American people. After all, wherever the heart of a people go, their hands will soon follow.
When something needs to be done, when hurting needs to be healed, when folks need to be lifted up, ordinary people have always come together and been able to accomplish great things. In our town we have many local private volunteer organizations that work silently behind the scenes in order to help relieve some of the burdens of others. We are neighbors; who better to know the truth of what we need than us? Even though we occasionally aggravate each other (you need only attend a school board meeting, a city council meeting, or take a listen to the local gossip to know that), I believe that when it comes down to it, we are all ready to roll up our sleeves and do what it takes to make life easier for those hurting around us. We are more than just a town, we are a community. Government cannot create that. Government cannot sustain that. Only those that live within it can both lay its foundation and ensure that it lasts. Ordinary Americans understand the need for building a community that we define ourselves, where nothing is ever too small for greatness.
Not even the life of a precious six-year old boy.
“The impersonal hand of government can never replace the helping hand of a neighbor.” Hubert H. Humphrey (1911-1978), 38th Vice-President of the United States, serving under President Lyndon B. Johnson