A fabulous window has opened

Published 8:25 am Friday, December 4, 2009

To the people of Western Tidewater:

My sister Joanne left me a voice mail message a few weeks ago to let me know that International Paper would close the mill. I returned her call immediately and we discussed the impact on the community.

The community had been hit between the eyes with a two-by-four. The rug had been pulled out from under us. Immediately fear set in. The impact has been so noted in this paper and others. For those of us who have roots here and live elsewhere, the rippling effect is similar

I have not lived in the Western Tidewater area since I graduated from high school in 1966, but it has always been home — always been where I went on holidays, where the family farm is, where extended relatives live, and where I, as the prodigal child, could always go for renewal. I am on the outside looking in, yet I have roots here.

It is easy to have blame, anger, and frustration that something is wrong about the mill closing. Why didn’t they give us more notice? Why are they closing it anyway? All those are questions that beg to be answered and emotions that we think need to be addressed. But what the questions and emotions do is drain us from our primary duty now. Folks are starting to just get the “what’s so” about what is happening. That is all there is to get.

The mill has provided for the economic development of this area of the country for a century. Many families have been fed, many students have had summer jobs, character has been built around the work ethic, and many other businesses have been supported. There were some things about the mill being here that did not work either. Our present power will be in honoring all that has gone before, and let it go. Choose to remember those parts that empower us.

What we fear is change. We think that since we have had things go a certain way for a long time that that is the way they should go. That is not the way they should go. That is just the way they have gone for a long time. Change is happening all the time. New people are born. Other people, and sometimes not the old ones, die. Family dynamics change. Politicians change. Views change. New circumstances change. Kids grow up and leave home. Hurricanes come. Erosion happens. Sickness occurs. Jobs come and go. No matter how good or bad a situation is, it will change. Our serenity, indeed our power, is in embracing the changes. Getting to the “what’s so” about the new circumstances without judgment gives us an empowering place to be able to create something newly.

You have history about going through crisis. When Franklin flooded, the community came together. Endless kindnesses were shown among you. People came together to help one another. People who might have had disagreements put them aside. All of you used what gifts and abilities you had to more strongly knit the bonds of community. It is these strong bonds that will see this community through whatever will come.

God never closes a door that he doesn’t open a window. Consider that the windows were there all along. We just did not focus on windows when the door was open. Consider that the windows are more fabulous than the door. And we wouldn’t look at them until the door closed. The plant closing is an opportunity to reinvent ourselves into something more fabulous than has ever been imagined. The opportunities are endless. The angels of all who have ever lived here before, and those of us who still live and live elsewhere are cheering you on.