A spirit of generosity helps us through tough times

Flip through this week’s paper, and one sees the impact of the worldwide recession on Vashon Island.

From the closing of Zanzibar, a lovely little chocolate shop that couldn’t find a buyer, to the difficulties at Vashon Community Care Center, where state-mandated cuts to the Medicare program are taking a toll, the recession is hardly an abstract matter.

It’s playing out daily on the Island, affecting people’s lives in ways many of us can’t fully comprehend.

But at the same time, stories in this week’s paper also suggest the depth of Islanders’ generosity as well the tenacity of our spirit.

Consider the fundraising effort to help stave off teacher layoffs at the Vashon Island School District spearheaded by board member Laura Wishik. On the one hand, it didn’t bring in nearly the amount Wishik had initially hoped — an ambitious $150,000 or so. On the other hand, it brought in a lot of dough — $40,000 — money the district wouldn’t now have if one board member hadn’t stepped forward and said, “Let’s try.”

Consider, too, the fact that administrators at the school district collectively agreed to take pay cuts amounting to $20,000. “No one asked them to,” noted school board chair Bob Hennessey. “They just did it.”

Put these efforts together, and one more teacher has a job. That’s not abstract. That’s a real person, teaching real kids.

It’s a tough time on Vashon, as elsewhere — a time that’s trying many of us in new and perplexing ways. Some of us are also launching kids into this uncertain future; Saturday’s high school graduation ceremony was bittersweet — a reminder of life’s promise as well as its challenge.

But it’s important to remember that it’s not necessarily a zero-sum game on Vashon — that it’s not the community care center pitted against the school district, a fundraiser for a woman with cancer pitted against a fundraiser for a kid who wants to go to Europe to play music.

This is not to say we can have it all — one of the foolhardy aphorisms of our consumer-oriented society. But we do have much to give in this community, and our resources are great.

Let’s continue to find a way to ensure that those institutions we care about — from the schools that educate our children to the nursing home that cares for our elders — survive and even thrive. Let’s reach deep into our pockets; find new ways to give; and draw upon our goodwill, tenacity and benevolence to keep the fabric of our community strong.

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