The importance of community

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Monday will mark one year since Sandy Casey of East Dorset was killed in Las Vegas, in one of the worst mass shootings in our country's history.

This past Saturday, her family and friends gathered for a trail race on the hill overlooking the campus of Burr and Burton Academy — the first We Are Sandy Casey Strong 5K.

People showed up, to run or just to be there. They showed up regardless of whether they knew Sandy as a classmate, or never met her. They knew that being there mattered, and really, that was all that mattered.

We got the sense that simple expression of caring, from familiar faces and strangers alike, allowed family and friends who have been through something unimaginable a measure of security and freedom to breathe, let the emotions flow, and celebrate the many good things about a young woman who left us all a remarkable legacy.

We can only imagine how difficult this year has been for the people who knew and loved Sandy Casey best. But on Saturday, we could see that the opportunity to celebrate her legacy in public was welcome, and a good thing.

That's community at its best. And it got us to thinking: What defines a healthy, successful community?

It can be a shared belief or cause that brings like-minded people from very different backgrounds to the roundabout with signs calling for political action, or to a volunteer community service effort conducted in relative anonymity. It's a youth sports team and its fans, in Arlington maroon or Burr and Burton hunter green, or a group of friends who gather to play pickleball at Dana L. Thompson Memorial Park.

It's the neighbor who kicks in the door of a burning house and ventures inside to make sure no one's trapped, and the volunteers who come running to put out the fire. It's the people who put on the holiday tractor parade, and the people who help take donations at the Community Food Cupboard.

It's the school board, and the parent-teacher association, and the custodians and bus drivers and paraprofessionals and especially the teachers.

It's a sense that in bad times and good times, and perhaps most importantly the in-between times when folks don't have as much reason to pay attention, that people are going to be there for you and have your back.

This is not to suggest the Northshire or anywhere else in Vermont has it all figured out when it comes to being good neighbors. Sometimes the unity implied in community is hard to come by, and often that's our own selective myopia at work.

But there heroes in those situations, too, people who step up and offer support for people who've been left out of the circle, bring them in and hold them up. That's community at its very best. In the end, what matters is how we treat one another. And Saturday showed us how important that can be.


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