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A Love Letter

By LEE KEET

This Opinion piece originally appeared in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise on May 6, 2020.

This is a love letter to our neighbors, our community. This is for all of you who have used charity, empathy, sacrifice and ingenuity to help us navigate this terrible epidemic. This is for AdkAction, which partnered with the Hub on the Hill to provide thousands of food boxes with a week’s worth of healthy food from local farms to affected families, and for those of you who donated money or time to make that happen. This is for the Saranac Lake Rotary, which has provided direct support for our struggling local businesses. This is for the Adirondack Foundation, which has raised almost $1 million for their Special and Urgent Needs (SUN) Fund and has already made 78 grants for food support, child care and other critical needs. This is for Mercy Care, which has managed to continue support for elders living alone even though their also-elderly volunteers are quarantined. This is for our medical providers who are taking unbelievable risks, providing us with care, while fearful that they will take the coronavirus home to their loved ones. This is for our remote hamlets, like Indian Lake, which have set up emergency food banks to serve their neighbors. This is for our cultural institutions that, in the midst of existential financial crises, are making music, theater and art available in new and innovative ways. The list goes on and on: our chamber of commerce, our local churches, the United Way, our food pantries, our farm bureaus, our banks that have made government relief possible locally, and many, many more. And yes, our governor and state executives, who have demonstrated leadership with Hemmingway’s definition of courage: grace under pressure.

Those institutions are made up of people: our friends and neighbors. Democrats and Republicans working side by side to make sure that the suffering is tempered as much as possible. I would like to name names, but the list would be huge. We are all friends in this crisis, and maybe as friends we can emerge stronger, with a better infrastructure, new ways of responding to adversity, better communication systems, new approaches to distance learning for our kids, better child care solutions.

This crisis is not over. The economic pain will last a long time, and this virus is novel and not yet fully understood. I fear that until we have a vaccine, and probably after, our lives will be different.

But it has been said that a crisis is a terrible thing to waste. Let’s build on what we have already learned: i.e., that most of us can handle social distancing and can use modern communications to stay close to our work, remote family and friends. That some of the most vulnerable in our community are now even more vulnerable and need even more from us: more empathy, more support and better representation. So let’s strengthen our local safety nets, creating better linkages between our child care, elder care and food security silos through improved communication and more robust volunteer management systems. Let’s demand better representation, less partisanship and more competence from our federal representatives.

I am very proud of our community and of all of you who have demonstrated your love for each other through little acts of kindness in this pandemic. I send you all a belated valentine; this love letter is for you.

Lee Keet lives in Saranac Lake and is chair of the Cloudsplitter Foundation.

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