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Making a Difference

I’m driven by the small wins, by feeling and knowing I’ve made a difference for the good — in an individual, and in our family, school and community.

In the Northwoods, we don’t have towns with oodles of easily accessible cultural and social activities. But we do have oodles of ways to get involved in meaningful activities. Oftentimes these activities (aka volunteer “free labor”) require a great deal of investment in time, energy, and patience; and they mean sacrifices. We get involved to keep tradition alive, to keep things going in a town with fewer bodies to help. We get involved to make a change, or to keep the town’s character in tact as economies change and challenge this charge. And, change is slooowwww. It can be excruciating. But then another day arrives… and little things remind us why we make these commitments & sacrifices… and we continue to hang in there, happily at times. Frustration trumped by sweetness. Not because a battle has been won (that’s sugar sweet!), but because we are reminded of why we live here:

  • The Place: pine-tree smells, diamond-colored snowfall, bluebird skies, deer running across “main street”, four seasons.
  • The People: the twitchy-romantic bartender with a deep love for our town, the hippie-carpenter-EMS volunteer who turns into the best darn balsalm tree a Northwoods Halloween has ever seen, the random at the restaurant with a swanky-twang loud voice not from ’round here, the fellow change-makers that get it and keep going too. The list is long.
  • The Atmosphere: small-town, safe, strange, funny, peaceful, and familiar.  
  • The Fun Stuff: skiing, fishing, hockey, lake days, events, dining out, yoga, walks in the woods, live music, and finding the establishment with the best fish fry, fireplace, cheese curds, outdoor patio… the list, again, is long.  
B-I-N-G-O, an intergenerational treat.

The sweetness comes, too, when you grow and learn to respect the process, the pace, and the quirks of small-town life. It comes in the moments. I had one yesterday when an older woman with a list of physical ailments came to yoga for the first time. She called and told me in advance that she was nervous, had little energy for the day-to-day, and logistically that she would be taking the elevator down/up to the lower level because she needed to conserve her energy. During class, she did wonderfully and we had the opportunity to talk afterwards. She expressed delight with what she was able to do, but it really hit home when I heard her and her friend’s conversation on the way out.

She said: “You know, forget the elevator. Let’s take the stairs.” Her friend replied “Are you sure?” An emphatic “Absolutely” was her response and in that, I heard her determination and a twinge of confidence previously lacking.

I knew with that exchange, that this was not just a small win. It was big and meaningful… for her and I both.

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