I want to take a more positive attitude this week. That is why I am picking a “Best Area Citizen of the Week.” My pick is Hubbard, Ohio school superintendent, Richard J. Buchenic. He is giving up his $85,000 salary and working for $1 for the next year. His salary will go towards renovations needed at the Hubbard school system. Buchenic has not had a pay raise in nine years, but his intention is to pay back the Hubbard community where he graduated. “I learned from my mother that there are certain things you do in life, and education has been good to me,” he said, calling his contribution a small one. In these days of administrators retiring and coming back to “double dip” I find Mr. Buchenic’s generosity refreshing.
As we get older priorities change for most people. Maybe like me you find you don’t need a lot of “things” and have realized that “things” weigh you down. If you are like me you find yourself bagging up those “things” you worked so hard for and donating them. You reach a stage in life where your values change and you start thinking about whether you’ve done any good for anyone with your life. You wonder if there are still things you could accomplish that might make a difference. As you age it becomes harder to make friends because you’ve reached an age where you’ve become very serious about the world. You are no longer at an age where the most important thing is to get together with others and “partaaay.” I talk a lot about community because I’ve reached that age where I know it not only takes a “village to raise a child” but that it takes a village to nurture life from birth to death.
I want to talk about the latest case of community I witnessed. My brother’s wife, Pam retired last year at age 58. She was feeling stressed out after many years as a nurse. Her father is a widower who has lost both legs to diabetes and she felt she could spend more time helping with him. She was able to retire at 58 because my brother and her live in a small modest home that was paid off many years ago. They don’t drive new cars, they haven’t traveled outside the country and they have no children and live below their means. My brother, Dan worked at the same plant I did that closed in 1999 after he and I put in 28 years each there. Like me he has a bunch of pensions that were stolen from a series of incompetent owners. Since 1999 until two years ago Dan worked for a few nickel and dime type of mills that had no pensions or health care. He had two fingers cut off and reattached in a mill accident in 2010 and has been out of work since. He has lost a lot of use of his hand and filed with a lawyer for a disability. That case has dragged on for years now and doesn’t look like it will be solved anytime soon.
My sister-in-law Pam has diabetes and being a nurse she should have monitoring it better. She had been feeling poorly for a few days and ignored it. On the third day of feeling poorly she could not move her right arm or leg and had to be rushed to the hospital as she’d had a stroke. She ended up in St. Elizabeth’s Hospital for several weeks of care and therapy. She couldn’t say enough good things about the nurses and care she got at St. E’s. She is doing better but a total recovery will take much more therapy. They are also faced with some huge medical bills. Dan and Pam’s house has two bedrooms and they are both up steep steps. They have a small room off of their living room for a computer room. Dan set about cleaning up the room so Pam wouldn’t have to go upstairs.
My mother can be a forceful woman even in her eighties. She decided she was going to get Pam a hospital type bed. She found one in the newspaper for sale and called about it. The seller said she had bought it for her mother who had recently died. The woman had paid $1200 for it and wanted $500. She asked my mother why she needed it and mom told her about Pam having a stroke. The woman was very sympathetic about Pam being so young to have suffered a stroke. She offered the bed to my mother for $250. My mother bought it over the phone sight unseen. Mom told the woman that Dan and my father would come the next day with a truck to get it and pay her then. When my father and Dan arrived the next day the woman had the bed all broken down in parts and ready for them. The bed was loaded and my father gave the woman an envelope with the money. The woman then gave the money back to my father and said she did not want to take any money for the bed and was just glad someone would get use out of it. My father insisted on paying her but the woman would not hear any of that. The woman in fact brought out a walker and some other equipment she thought Pam could use and told my father to take it also.
As I said my mother can be a forceful woman even though she hasn’t been getting out after having a steel rod put in her back a year or so ago. My mother who is a great cook and baker baked up a big batch of cookies and her famous caramel candy. She then had my dad take the cookies and candy to the bed seller as a thank you. A few days later my mother received a long letter in the mail from the woman. I didn’t want to pry as to the contents but mom said the woman wants to visit her. My mother called her and the woman wants my mother to teach her how to make her caramels. Mom was more than happy to teach the woman how to make candy. After giving directions it came to light one of my mother’s neighbors is a friend of the bed seller. In the end a villager came to the rescue of my sister-in-law and my mother has found a new friend.
I have said the following before and I am proud to have found another example to say it again. “People talk about how in the old days tough times rallied people into a sense of solidarity, of community, a sharing that said, we all matter and we’re all in this together. Community my brothers and sisters is anything but ancient history. It is all around us when we need a hand or are willing to lend a hand. These aren’t people who just talk about family values, but live them. These are people who have learned that giving of self is the way to true fulfillment.” We live in this valley which is full of people like the bed giver that appear like angels when help is needed. An area full of such willing angels makes us one of the wealthiest communities in the country. The Elecpencil is damn proud to live here!
Local musician Damian Knapp: “Lockwood’s Boogie”
“Many people are good at talking about what they are doing, but in fact do little. Others do a lot but don’t talk about it; they are the ones who make a community live.” ~ Jean Vanier, Community and Growth