Be the River

It has been uncomfortable for me to read recent disparaging comments about our summer visitors on local social media. Just as a few bad experiences with visitors should not be used to generalize opinions about an entire group, I hope our visitors realize that the comments of a few posters on Facebook do not represent the feelings of the vast majority of the local population.

Creating prejudices from a few bad experiences and applying them to an entire group of people is something we see happening daily on the national stage. It's sad and it's wrong. It's not the American way. It's not the New Hampshire way. It's not the Christian way. And it is certainly not the Wakefield way.

I can understand some of the frustration being expressed. Any time a Town population quickly increases by multiple times as ours does every summer, it's going to put a strain on resources and bring some tension. We also don’t like change (from the other nine months of the year). Our visitors come here to get away from city madness. They long for the peaceful, slower pace, fresh air and clean water. They just want to have a fun experience. However, it can be perplexing for the locals when it appears that some of our visitors have packed their city ways and brought them along: things like speeding, impatience, looking down on rural people, and disturbing the solitude that they came here to enjoy.

On the other hand, it's important for us locals to acknowledge the symbiotic relationship we have with our visitors. Out-of-towners support of our local businesses helps them to be profitable and survive the long, cold off- season. This creates local jobs. Out-of-town property owners’ tax dollars play a major role in funding our School and Town budgets. As a group, the dollars they leave here have a very positive effect on the rest of us.

It may help to reconsider some things that our mothers tried to teach us. The first is that we have no control over anyone or anything except ourselves. You can post nasty things on Facebook if you want to try and make others act differently. You're only going to get more frustrated. I’ve been there and done that. You get a whole different response when you say: “hey buddy can you help me out?” instead of “Hey Asshole!”
Second, experiences with a few thoughtless visitors should not lead to assumptions that a whole group is tainted. Every group, including the locals, has a few in its numbers that are best avoided.

I think it might all be related to one quality that we all have and that I believe our culture has been steadily losing. It's called being considerate of others. No matter if you're a Republican or Democrat, local or visitor, right or left, you can still be considerate of the feelings of the folks you come into contact with. I think we have lost some of that along the way as the culture of cell phones and entitlement and virtual reality has increasingly crept into our lives. It seems that I see folks everywhere with an attitude of "I'm here.....and I'm entitled to have the world revolve around me!" as if life is some sort of video game. That might work perfectly in a virtual world but it's going to be quite a shock when you come back to reality.

So what can we do to calm our frustrations while attempting to make it a better, more accepting Town?
We know that we can't control anyone else’s behavior, but we can share what we have learned that helps keep us grounded.
Life is one long journey full of pleasant and unpleasant experiences. There are going to be obstacles to deal with. There's a saying: "Don't push the river...(it will only flow around you).....BE the river (which easily flows around all obstacles)." Humans are flawed....some more than others. I let the inconsiderate ones go ahead of me in line. I let them pass me on the road. I do what is needed to place a greater distance between us. I try to be the kinder person. Instead of experiencing anger, I feel better about myself.

I try not to make assumptions that will cause me to treat someone I don't even know with contempt. It's called prejudice and the world is full of it. I wouldn't want to be treated poorly for something I didn't do, so I try to give everyone an equal chance to show me their good qualities. There are stinkers in every group. Once I come into contact with them, I get away from them. But no purpose is served by punishing others for their rude behavior.
I use simple work-arounds to minimize frustration. I try to avoid Town on the weekends. I plan my moves to stay away during known high traffic times and use alternate routes when I can. If joining the madness is unavoidable, I mentally prep myself for the possibility of pain-in-the-ass moments. That way I won't be surprised and angry when I experience them.

In my younger days I didn't really understand the meaning of wisdom. I knew that older folks supposedly had it but wasn't quite sure if it meant that all their accumulated knowledge allowed them to more easily navigate a complicated world. Now that I'm becoming one of the older folks, some wisdom is slowly coming into view. As I age I realize that there isn't much that really matters to fuss and fight about. Nowadays, when I start to quickly react to something that irritates me, I try to step back from the moment and ask myself: "Does this really matter?" Most times the answer is "No".


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  1. Anonymous said:

    This is a lovely letter and I truly believe the majority of us in Wakefield, follow these actions. We came here in 84 and we were welcomed by some really wonderful people in our little village that we remain close friends with to this day. Many changes have occurred in our lives;children,activities,new friends casual acquaintances etc. Always welcomed everywhere and we welcomed everyone into our home and lives. But I have to say,in the past 2 1/2 years, life here is dramatically changing. We knew everyone in Wakefield and we were all cordial to each other. Now we know very few and it seems as though many have fallen along the wayside or stay within the home area. When we go into town or any of the local businesses ,it’s like we’re the strangers. Crept up on us but very noticeable of late. We don’t go into town ever on the weekends,and rarely during the summer ,fall or winter do we venture to local businesses. We were always involved in local gatherings,functions and fund raisers etc, buts it’s all different and distant now. It’s sad and oh well,many have found our beautiful lakes,rivers,mountains,businesses and quiet little area and now it’s growing at a pace I don’t want to keep up with. So, we venture away and invade another states shoreline,shops,restaurants and such and we do this with total respect for the locals who have been in their places forever. We get it though. Times change, money talks and new adventures elsewhere call us. Gotta move on sooner than later. Love, love, love Wakefield…….but we love the old Wakefield more. Stay friendly and polite to all.Thats the only way it will work.

    August 23, 2019
  2. Fred Guldbrandsen said:

    Wakefield, NH has been my beloved home (of record) since 1960. I’ve had the opportunity to travel a lot. I’ve been to trade schools and college in Massachusetts. While serving in the US Army I lived in Ayer, MA/Fort Devens, MA for 7 years where I bought two homes. Massachusetts is a fine place to live and work and go to school. The people of Massachusetts are very hard working bright people.
    Our US history and our US heritage are greatly influenced by our fine Massachusetts neighbors.
    Leading up to the Civil War the then Governor of Massachusetts trained and equipped his militia (later aka Massachusetts Army National Guard) to Washington DC, even before being asked by President Abraham Lincoln!, to protect the US Capital during the entire Civil War as well as the brave 54th Massachusetts Combat Regiment participated in battles and leading in the fiercest fighting at Fort Wagner, South Carolina.

    The Pilgrims, and early Settlers of Massachusetts started something. General, later Father of our Nation, President George Washington relied heavily on the former colonialists of Massachusetts as he did the rest of the colonies to create our great nation. The Mid-night Ride of Paul Revere, Taxation without representation, The Stamp Act, The Boston Tea Party, The Minutemen, the Shot Heard Round the World. Old Iron Side aka USS Constitution, still in US Naval service and all the other heroes and founders and citizens of our nation from Massachusetts. All the textile industry creating jobs throughout the industrial revolution in the many towns and cities of Massachusetts, the more current ‘Massachusetts (business) miracle’, the many many Massachusetts hospitals are world famous, Universities too; all institutions that are a credit to the great people of Massachusetts and worthy of our great respect and mutual respect from the rest of our great nation.
    Throughout our history Massachusetts is always the proud home of the brave, land of the free, just like the rest of America.
    IMA too.

    August 23, 2019
  3. Tom Daniels said:

    Great message Julie. . Smile. Be polite. Have a positive mental attitude.

    August 23, 2019
  4. Becky Keating said:

    Thank you for this wise and mindful reminder of how we want to be. I find much truth and meaning in this blog and appreciate your sensitivity to co-existence. . ‘Be the change you want to see.’

    August 24, 2019

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