Right here in River City

Published 7:27 am Friday, May 15, 2009

I am not sure why it has taken this long for me to understand what I suspect so many citizens of Franklin figured out long ago: It takes reaching out, possibly now more than ever, to make this little community of ours tick.

Shared sacrifice is not some new idea hatched by our current president and his brain trust. To the contrary I contend that sacrifice of the few for the benefit of the many has a rich history among a small continuous cadre of citizens inhabiting the banks of the Blackwater.

A full appreciation of this citizen sacrifice was not gained during my formative years in Franklin. As an adult, much of my 20-year sales gig for Union Camp required two to three nights of each week traveling beyond the comfortable confines of Franklin. There was little time beyond travel and family during that period for me to truly dig into the underlying fabric of this little community and fully appreciate those community members who were rolling up there sleeves for the benefit of the majority of Franklin’s citizens.

Fortunately, it is possible for an individual to pursue a fresh look at a taken-for-granted subject in order to gain greater understanding. Retirement, with its unstructured schedule, provides this format for some. The death or serious illness of close friends and the realization of our own mortality can also force us to break out of our comfort zone and obtain a different perspective.

Whatever the basis for the second look, the important aspect is to eventually understand and fully appreciate that it is the shared sacrifice of our citizens, just like those made within a successful corporation, that is the lifeblood of a community like ours.

On Monday, several events converged to bring all of this into focus. The Franklin-Southampton Area Chamber of Commerce sponsored its annual golf tournament at our local course. Given today’s economic conditions, a fall-off in participation from last year would not have been an unreasonable expectation. Didn’t happen, not even on a wet Monday afternoon. There were 80 participants last year, 80 again this year, and I suspect there will be at least that many next year regardless of the economy.

Fortuitous? Hardly. Rather, its success was the result of the hard work of the incredibly small, two-person Chamber staff and volunteers coming together on one rain-filled day to make it such a memorable outing. Its appropriate honoree, Joe Dail, who left us way too early, was there in spirit to remind us of the tireless sacrifices that he and others made to save our downtown during the 1999 flood.

Later in the day, while the golf tournament was in full throttle, another group of small volunteers from the Downtown Franklin Association assembled under the roof of the new Farmers’ Market and began to unload a truck full of heavy, rain-soaked lumber. Their objective was to build 14 permanent sorting tables that will become an integral part of the new Farmers’ Market, which opens this weekend. Ten were completed in the three-hour period before darkness postponed the effort until later in the week.

Laughter and a few dinners to go from Fred’s made the most of another example where a few citizens pulled together so that the many can enjoy an exciting, new facility right in the heart of downtown Franklin.

The last leg of my observed trifecta also began late Monday afternoon — only the action took place within the confines of our City Hall. Council members, our city manager, mayor and numerous city employees were putting the final touches to the grueling budget process for 2009-10. Over the past month, this small group has been spending countless evenings away from home and family in order to agree upon a financial path that hopefully will provide accustomed service levels to the citizens of Franklin without raising our property taxes. Such effort has occurred during an economic downturn not seen since the early 1980s — not an easy task.

It would only be human nature to on occasion be critical of a specific aspect of our town. Young people in particular freely speak of being “bored” and having “nothing to do” here. Fair enough. Some of the criticism is no doubt legitimate and warranted.

Before we get into a non-productive pattern of constant criticism, however, let us not forget those who each day carry on the proud tradition of shared sacrifice in Franklin in order to make this a better community for each of us and our children to live.

Occasionally take the time to break out of your comfort zone or routine and lend them a helping hand. They deserve it, right here in our River City, Franklin, Va.