With joy in our hearts and a need for closure, this week, we gladly wave goodbye to the first 10 years of the 21st century.
And what a 10 years it’s been.
We started the decade in 2000 with “hanging chads” and the contested presidential election followed in 2001 by September 11th, arguably the worst tragedy in the nation’s history. Soon to follow were not one, but two wars waged on two different continents, Hurricane Katrina and the meltdown of the American financial system.
As the “aughts” come to an end, we are dismayed to report that it’s still not over — not the wars or the lingering effects of Katrina, not the grief of 9/11 nor the financial woes. None of it is yet securely behind us (except, perhaps the outcome of that 2000 election). And in 2009 we experienced the hangover of a decade by living through the after-effects of what some people are calling the second Great Depression.
And as a nation, boy, are we depressed.
Unemployment in the last year spiked to 17 percent in some parts of the country. Foreclosures were rampant and still running wild. Close to 46 million people in the United States are uninsured. With this being one the most trying years in one of the most trying decades on the books (Time magazine named it the worst decade ever), how did we manage to get through it?
We cannot speak for other places in the country, but here in Sag Harbor we and countless others survived these turbulent times with the support of the community. Of course, the term “community support” has over the years been turned into a vague generalization. We only use the phrase liberally because we see its workings nearly every day in the village and especially during the holiday season.
From the Sag Harbor Community Food Pantry to the coat drive to the Mitten Line to the “Canorah,” Sag Harbor people have proven time and time again how much they care about the welfare of their neighbors. In the schools, guidance counselor Michelle Grant is teaching children as young as five to strike an item off their Christmas list and instead give a gift to a fellow schoolmate in need.
Although all of the marketing in the world has told these children to desire mountains of presents, they are not only willing to give gifts away but are gladly participating in the program.
At the Sag Harbor Food Pantry dozens of volunteers make sure that residents down on their luck aren’t sustained by just a bag full of canned items. They make sure to provide the nourishment and taste of local produce and high-quality meats. And scores of religious organizations recognized the local homeless population and created a Maureen’s Haven shelter in our community this year.
Despite the trials and tribulations of 2009, the local spirit of generosity was infused with new meaning because of, and not in spite of, the recession. During the boom times, it is easy to forget those in need. With news of the recession dominating local and national media coverage, issues surrounding poverty were brought to the forefront. The need for help couldn’t be ignored and the village set a tone for giving to the less fortunate. When the majority of residents lend a helping hand in one way or another it creates a climate of giving that becomes a natural extension of what we do.
It is this spirit that is the heart of the village. Yes, we are a small community and with that comes the inherent rumor mill; but as we said before, we are a village that cares. Since Sag Harbor was first settled in the early 18th century, our population has grown to include people from all walks of life and economic strata, but we have remained a tight-knit community. This holiday season we ask you to reflect on your contribution in the village and what you can do to improve the wonderful place we call home.
And here’s looking forward to 2010!