Column: Ode to Joy

Americans are frustrated and angry about a range of serious issues: practical concerns about the price of gas, groceries, and housing; the ways in which taxes are assessed and spent; and more broadly, fears of political instability, bigotry, environmental threats, health and childcare challenges, and increasing incidents of violence.

All of these and more are urgent subjects for civil discussion and debate. As parents and grandparents, we worry about the kind of future our children will have. As responsible Americans we all must decide in 2022 and 2024 what kind of a nation we want to be and what kind of leadership we want to have at all levels of government.

All of these pressing concerns have created anger and with it a culture of meanness. Regrettably both have infected us here in Easton. Eruptions at town meetings, mean-spirited accusations of wrong-doing and vicious social media postings are just a few of the ways in which our town is being factionalized. These negative impulses hurt us all.

Life in Easton is not a zero-sum game. We all get to breathe clean air, drink pure water, enjoy our farmers’ bounty, and appreciate our open spaces and our precious wildlife. These are things that unite us. We have our own homes and space around them. No high-density housing, just a few shared driveways. During Covid none of us were confined to cramped apartments, as many were in neighboring cities.

Covid cases remained relatively low and local farmers and businesses rose to the challenges quickly and effectively. Whether one liked his policies or not, our First Selectman, David Bindelglass, a physician, apprised residents of trends and infection rates on a regular basis and he continues to do so even now.

A vibrant library staff hosts book clubs and lectures, all manner of cultural and social activities—movies, plays, backgammon, children’s activities, and art shows to name just a few. Our senior center offers everything from yoga and haircuts to blood pressure checks and transportation to doctors’ appointments. We are served by dedicated first responders—police, fire and EMS. Our schools maintain high academic standards and are supportive of our children and responsive to their parents. The Easton Community Center and Easton Park and Recreation Department offer a diverse menu of recreational opportunities. Concerts on the Hill at Christ Church and other venues provide concerts featuring a variety of musical genres.

Summer and autumn in Easton are spectacular. The weather is temperate (mostly) and we have patriotic parades, Pride celebrations, Juneteenth observances, fireworks, and coming up, the Easton Fireman’s Carnival (Aug. 2 – 6), the Citizens for Easton Farm Tour (Aug. 13) and the Easton Town Party (Sept. 18)—all events to celebrate together as neighbors and friends, to put aside our differences and set an example of community for our children. Year after year we’ve done this, but it’s getting more awkward as our differences are thrown into relief.

Our preservation and conservation challenges have been hard-fought and won by a clear majority of our citizens. We can continue to protect our town from inappropriate development without vitriol. Those who use a public forum as a way to vent personal animosities are not moving any goalposts. Those who post crude and unkind comments are not attracting any new converts. We have wonderful social media available here: “A Taste of Easton and Redding” is a delightful example. Read a recipe and cook something, for Pete’s sakes.

For those who prefer to mock elected officials past and present, or challenge the results of a town vote, smear volunteers on commissions and boards, and by the way, the Easton Courier, I say this: Get off your duff and help our town instead of undermining it. Good ideas articulated in a positive way will get a hearing. Recently the passage of the land use ordinance and approval of the South Park petition were made possible by a coalition of residents working cooperatively with town officials.

But perhaps what best reflects our shared aspirations is the artwork our children produced for the “Welcome to Easton” Sign Contest seen below.

Welcome to Easton signs created by students from Samuel Staples Elementary School and Helen Keller Middle School.

None of us is immune to the woes of society, but we can all take comfort in life’s pleasures too. Make a decision to choose joy. It’s all around you in Easton if you trouble to look for it.

Jane Paley is on the editorial board of the Easton Courier and a long-standing member of the Citizens for Easton Board. She is also an adjunct professor at Sacred Heart University. These views are her own and do not represent those of the Courier staff.

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