2016-10-13 / Opinion


The Newport We Admire

Can we take a breather from politics, the quadrennial soapbox/ soap opera that makes for irresistible and compelling theater, for the moment?

In Newport we have more to focus on, and plenty to admire. We are a community of good souls. Multiple definitions exist for the word community; the one that fits best here is that of fellowship or common good.

When one person in our community hurts, we all hurt. When one celebrates, we all celebrate.

In the collective response to four recent island-wide events – ranging from tragedy to celebration – we have seen in our community a deep reservoir of selflessness and compassion.

On Labor Day, Sept. 5, seven-year-old Ramon Arroyo of Middletown perished in a house fire. Ramon’s parents and siblings lost not only their beloved son and brother, but the contents of their home. The community grieved, responding to this devastating loss with gestures large and small.

At the end of September, the MLK Center posted a call out to the community to help restock its depleted food pantry. In the blink of an eye a local family presented a pledge challenge, promising to match donations, up to $1,000, if 10 people gave $100 each. According to MLK Development Director Alyson Novick, in less than 24 hours, “dozens” responded. At the same time a group of area businesses coordinated “100 for $100,” asking colleagues to pledge at least $100. As of this writing, more than $15,000 has been pledged.

Last Saturday, Oct. 8, the Broadway Street Fair was a timely and vibrant bon voyage to years of “dust, dust-ups, digging, detours, and delays” and a welcome gesture towards a revitalized main street. Thousands of people, some estimate 5,000, others think more strolled the quarter-mile stretch filled with music, artisans, and culinary diversity. Musicians volunteered their time and talents, and the city and businesses on the street and from afar made donations to make sure the inaugural event was a success. Countless hours invested by a team of dedicated volunteers pulled off an unprecedented feat in the City by the Sea. Bona fide Newporters were impressed. “This is just a great event,” said one. “I think the city is going to be happy they did this.” Added another, “This is just so local and authentic.”

Finally, the rain forecast for Saturday’s street fair held off – until Sunday’s soaker and the half- and full marathon. Running 13.1 or 26.2 miles is no small feat, but all anyone could talk about in the chilly aftermath was the volunteers.

This is the Newport we admire, and these are the Newporters we aspire to be. Time and again, when people are in need, or have something to celebrate or pay tribute, the spirit of community in this town outdistances everything else. And before we all jump headlong back into the electoral fray, let’s embrace our capacity for compassion, and take a time out to appreciate our islandwide ability to work together for the common good.

And remember to vote on Nov. 8.

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