The town’s Living Treasure Award ceremony and dinner last week was an invaluable case study in community spirit and public service. It was the third of these events in the past four years (last year’s was cancelled to safeguard against coronavirus transmission); it’s now a regular occasion to celebrate the volunteer contributions of standout residents and simultaneously raise supplemental funds for senior center facilities and programming.
This year’s recipients were honored for long-term, volunteer efforts in local schools, churches, community groups, and government positions. Their respective, admirable commitments provide for others a reminder, encouragement, and motivation to get involved as able, lend a hand as necessary, and provide input as needed. The sustained efforts by Living Treasure Award winners – and publicity about it – also creates a legacy of selflessness to which others may aspire.
The event itself was held with ample precaution given ongoing pandemic conditions, despite an admirable vaccination rate among Woodbridge residents. The Town’s fire station – with its large bay doors opened wide to minimize shared air – was the venue, and masks were required of all who attended the sold out event, just as they are required inside all Town buildings.
After a brief program to honor this year’s recipients and recognize their generous nature, dinners were served to take away and enjoy elsewhere, again, to minimize the risk of virus transmission through shared air.
These protocols are consistent with scientific evidence, advice from medical professionals, and the collective experience of these past 18 months: physical distance between us, mask use, and vaccination – in any combination – are irrefutably effective antidotes to virus spread. Here’s hoping this lesson is well learned town-wide, as the issue of mask-wearing continues to play out in local public schools.
It’s a given: using a mask is no one’s first choice; we all long for a pre-pandemic lifestyle. But when given the chance to protect teachers in a classroom filled with too-young-to-be-vaccinated students, keep students safe from other students who might’ve been exposed, guard against transmitting the virus to family members at home, and otherwise help quash the incidence of COVID-19 in our community, isn’t it common sense, and wouldn’t it be wise, for each of us to accept some responsibility, care for one another, show some community spirit, and selflessly wear a mask?
More broadly, I would take away one more lesson from last week’s event to underscore the giving nature of Living Treasure Award winners: a reminder to look for similar traits in those we choose to hold elected office. It has been my privilege to work for, with, and among government officials of both parties for most of my career, some genuinely motivated to work as public servants, and some in my judgment more interested in the perceived power, prestige, and panache of holding elected office.
Similarly, I think policies promoted by those in office, or by those who seek to hold office, provide abundant evidence of intention to either provide the greatest good for the greatest number or conversely, protect and benefit a select few by controlling, restricting, or otherwise subverting the best interests of some others.
I believe these distinctions are apparent right now in the respective approach to current hot-button policy issues beyond pandemic response and whether or not to be vaccinated or wear a mask. Right now there are many who are hard at work to restrict voting rights and access to the ballot box, roll back environmental protections meant to safeguard the life-sustaining planet we share, extend the proliferation of automatic weapons and other dangerous guns on American streets, and impose arbitrary, heartless health standards on others based on gender, ethnicity, and economic standing.
Going forward, I hope all of us take to heart the community spirit and generous nature embodied in Woodbridge residents chosen for the Living Treasure Award, and look for it in those who are active in the public sector. Our local government, public schools, state government, and our nation itself all depend upon those willing to give of themselves and work for a community, state, and country committed to the best interests of all.