The original home of the blog known as 802 Online

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Faith, Not Fear

My latest Winooski Eagle editorial, out in tomorrow's December paper:

The Unitarian Universalists have a saying that I admire: “Be guided by your faith, not by your fear.” I think it would make a great slogan for the town of Winooski, though it’s perhaps a little long, and not as exciting as: “Winooski, Burlington’s Brooklyn.”

The month of December is the darkest time of the year, and in many ways, we in Winooski are experiencing a dark time as well. Our downtown is dominated by a giant hole in the ground that’s sucking up the financial as well as the psychological energy of our community. Hooper’s Pub, the Vermont Sandwich Company, and the Burrito Joint have closed. Others complain of parking shortages, and decreased traffic because of the construction. This is a difficult time to be a business owner in downtown Winooski, especially if you depend on foot traffic.

And it’s a tough time to be living here, too. Despite the city’s best efforts to disseminate information about the redevelopment project, many residents still don’t know what the heck is going on down there. They don’t have a vision of what this downtown could be — will be, in a few months. And many of us are scared. What if the project doesn’t work out? What if nobody moves into those vacant spaces?

But it’s not just the physical landscape of Winooski that’s changing — the population of Winooski is changing, as well. On November 7, we lost Claire Burke, who grew up in Winooski, graduated from Winooski High School in 1936, and worked in the Town Clerk’s Office for nearly 50 years. As we lose men and women like Claire Burke, and we are losing them every day, we wonder, who will replace them?

And it’s not just Winooski that’s in the midst of an upheaval — like it or not, our country is fighting a war. All month, we’ve watched as our neighbors, family, and friends depart for tours of duty overseas. We see them go, and we’re afraid — will they return? Will they be the same if they do?

For me, sitting here in the “offices” of the Winooski Eagle (as I like to call whatever room of my house I’m sitting in when I’m typing on my laptop), there are plenty of reasons to be afraid. I’m trying to run a small community newspaper at a time when newspapers all over the country are shrinking or folding. And I’m asking Winooski businesses to support it by advertising in its pages. Remember what I said about it being a bad time to be a business in downtown Winooski? (Self-serving aside: if you or any business owner you know would like to advertise here, call us! 655-6192. Our rates are reasonable.)

Lately when I’m feeling fearful, which is more often than I’d like, I go for a walk. It’s dark for nearly 23 hours a day now, but when I’m walking, I actually don’t mind, because that means I can see the lights. While I am not (yet) a holiday light-putter-upper, I certainly appreciate people who are. Their displays, no matter how cheezy, affirm my faith that there is light in the world, and that these dark times will pass.

The best display in town, if you ask me, is the one at Smith Park, on the corner of Main and West Allen Streets, across from the Post Office. I’m not necessarily saying it’s the most creative, or most technologically advanced in town (although you have to admire those reindeer — watch ‘em! They move!), but to me, it’s the most inspiring.

Volunteers from a group called Season’s Greetings put that display together because they felt the town needed a lift during the holiday season. They raise money to pay their own electric bills, so none of our taxes go to support it. Seeing those lights reminds me to be guided by my faith, to trust that there are people here who care, and that if I pitch in, they will, too. Maybe the coming months will prove me wrong, but I’d rather live in faith than in fear.

Seeing the lights at Smith Park also reminds me of the angry phone call I got last month from one of those volunteers, who was outraged (rightly so!) that the Eagle had ignored the pumpkin lighting celebration in Smith Park on the night before Halloween. But I didn’t ignore it on purpose — I just didn’t know about it. So as you perform your acts of faith all over town, don’t forget to let me know about them if you want them in the newspaper. The best way to reach me is via email, at cresmer at verizon.net, or cresmer at gmail.com. Or call 655-6192, or write to PO Box 61, Winooski, VT 05404. As always, I look forward to hearing from you. Especially if you’re an advertiser.
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