01 August 2006

When one of the firemen in Egremont got married, the marquee did not arrive in time, so it was arranged to have the wedding in the fire station.

Egremont is a town of 1,033 people, made up of two villages and governed by three ‘Selectmen’ (although right now one of them is a woman). Most of the town committees are composed of volunteers. My husband served on the Board of Health and I was a member of the Finance Committee for 12 years.

The Fire Department is manned by some 36 volunteers, eight of them emergency medical technicians. They respond to every medical emergency and road accident, as well as fires—and on one occasion to a cat stuck under a bathtub!

When one of the firemen got married, the marquee did not arrive in time, so it was arranged to have the wedding in the fire station. But when the minister and guests arrived, the fire trucks were just returning from a fire, so nothing was ready. Everyone hove to and arranged the chairs for the service.

The groom told the minister, ‘If there’s another call, the bride and I will get in the driver’s cab, and will you please stand on the back of the truck as we take off.’ The minister had a vivid picture of himself standing on the fire truck, his robes billowing in the breeze as they roared through the village. Luckily, perhaps, there was no call.

Random kindness
I recently made a purchase in a large department store. The cost was $4.25. As I had just four one dollar bills in my purse, I told the saleslady that I’d write a cheque. She promptly reached into her own pocket and plunked a 25 cent coin on the counter. ‘I keep this for just such emergencies,’ she said, with a smile. The man behind me agreed that this was indeed a ‘random act of kindness’.

And there are many such acts in our community. Unless we are going to be away overnight, we never lock our doors. Neighbours share their garden produce and turn up with food and offers of help when anyone is sick or someone dies. When I was in hospital with a broken shoulder, some neighbours came in and cleaned the whole house!

For youth, by youth
A high school student in Great Barrington, our nearest big town, was so worried by the problem of drugs and of groups of teenagers hanging out on the streets that she started the Railroad Street Youth Project. One of her siblings had been on drugs.

The project started out by providing a place where young people could meet, but has grown amazingly and is now run by a staff of young people.

They help under-25s with anything they need: finding a job or somewhere to live, sorting out problems with parents or friends through mediation, going to court or finding a lawyer. They have started a nursery for promoting native plants, produced plays and organised dances.

Greening up
There are many Americans like us who feel that our country has ‘blotted its copy book’ around the world because of our arrogance and greed.

Many of us lament our government’s flagrant disregard for the environment. Recently a weak bill with no teeth in it was passed to cut down on poisonous gases—presumably as a sop to those who are valiantly fighting for clean air. Now some districts are beginning to seek out ways to do this locally.

One way to solve the problem has evolved in our area of Massachusetts, under the name of ‘Green up with greener watts’. For a minimal increase in charges, residents can sign up for electricity created by windpower, low-impact hydro-power and biomass, thereby cutting down on the use of fossil fuels.

Pencil power
The US is seen as a high-tech nation. A friend called his doctor’s office recently to give him a number. The young lady who answered the phone told him he could use email.

‘I don’t have email,’ he said. ‘Do you have paper and a pencil?’ ‘Yes.’
‘Then please just write down 78.’
‘Oh,’ exclaimed the astonished young lady. ‘That’s quicker than email!’

Editor’s note
This article arrived by post, with a covering letter headed ‘rediscover the joys of handwritten letters’—
and the following verse:

Email rushes to and fro,
Since paper letters seem too slow.
But we prefer the status quo,
This note was sent by escargot.

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