Our Commitment to Community
Karen and Jay celebrate the spirit of community and share thoughts from the Lakeport Opera House immediately following the exciting ‘kick off’ event to the NH Pumpkin Festival in Laconia.
Home is where the heart is. Where we grow up, the people we know, the community that surrounds us – these are such critical aspects in shaping who we are, who we become, and what we think to be important. In fact, we have a foundational set of relationships and beliefs that we develop at an early age that helps set our priorities, form our loyalties, and establish connections that last a lifetime. Interestingly, we often find ourselves pulled in directions that support our inner values, helping those around us in our communities – and doing so in a way that on the surface, we would appear to be placing the priorities of others ahead of our own. This is where the story of ‘Bedford Falls’ comes in.
I’ve said it before in the Sunshine Report, and I’ll gladly say it again, but one of my favorite movies is the film, It’s a Wonderful Life. Often considered one of the greatest works of American cinema during the 20th century, it’s a wonderful piece of filmmaking that highlights the importance of doing right by others, no matter the circumstances and even when we think we’re not making a positive impact. Though it’s typically thought of as a movie for the holidays, I actually think its message holds true no matter the time of year.
If you haven’t seen the film, just a ‘heads up,’ there may be a spoiler or two ahead. The protagonist in the film, George Bailey, played by the famed Jimmy Stewart, is a businessman from Bedford Falls, NY who continues to take care of others at the expense of his own grand ambitions, so much so he wishes he had never existed and contemplates taking his own life. Yet a divine spirit intervenes and shows George how terrible life would be for so many in Bedford Falls had George not been there to take care of them, including his own family. Shocked and grateful for all that he has in his life after this divine intervention, he returns to Bedford Falls, thankful for all he has.
If you’re an avid reader of the Sunshine Report, you can probably guess why I love this kind of story. While it may be a Hollywood movie with a bit of a Hollywood ending, the underlying theme in It’s a Wonderful Life has a lot to teach us about our own lives and the power of gratitude, taking time to appreciate what is we have, not what we don’t have. As we see in the film, George gets so caught up thinking about what he doesn’t have or feel he hasn’t achieved, he forgets that much of what makes life so wonderful was always right in front of him. Not to mention the incredibly positive impact his sacrifices made in the lives of others!
Oftentimes when we act to serve others or our community, the benefits may go completely unseen to us. Or, when life gets in the way of our ambitions, it’s easy for us to become discouraged, as George did. The unpredictability of life is such that most of what we plan will never be linear, there will in fact always be deviations or setbacks. What’s important is that in these moments, perhaps when we may be feeling a bit like George Bailey, we take a moment for gratitude, take count of our blessings for what he have rather than what we don't. When we make this a regular practice, especially through the most difficult moments, it’s possible to see that this is in fact a wonderful life.
Celebrating the ‘General Store’
There is something about the ringing of a bell when you enter through the door of a general store that gives you a warm and welcoming feeling in addition to knowing that someone will always be inside waiting to help you. General stores were usually small establishments that had the general basics and maybe once in a while some exotic items - like a dress from France would come in and everyone would come to look at it.
From the 1800’s to the early 1900’s, you could have gotten your horse feed and penny candy at the same time. It often provided services critical to the early communities from pharmacies to mail delivery to the ever-popular soda fountain. Today, some have evolved into what we now would call convenience stores, including a gas station along with ATMs and emergency staples like milk and bread. Depending on the establishment, you can still get homemade cookies or information on the local area. Some have grown to national chains such as Seven Eleven, or the popular regional convenience store, Wawa’s. But, generally speaking – they don’t truly fill the void left by the gradual disappearance of the old general store.
A real general store has a nostalgic aspect to it, such as glass tubs filled with candy and countertops for you to see all the goods. In Vermont, the Vermont Country Store brings you back to the times of yesteryear with brands and knickknacks that are not found on store shelves anymore, like Lemon Up shampoo from the 70’s or Gumby and Friends toys. Or, if you’ve ever visited Norwich, Vermont and stopped into Dan & Whit’s, you’d know exactly what we’re talking about. Interestingly, the rest stops on Interstate 93 in New Hampshire have embraced the ambiance of a general store with similar fun nostalgia while offering staple items for travelers.
In the era of online shopping and big-box stores, the general store was a place in the center of the town and was often the ‘heart of the town’ - where townsfolk could get what they needed and also conduct business while they were doing so. Plus catch up on the local gossip. And where if you couldn’t find what you were looking for - you probably didn’t need it!
Local Radio - Our Community Neighbor We All Know and Appreciate
When crisscrossing the Granite State, I love to listen to local radio. Whether it’s tunes, listening to the Pats or Sox, or getting my fix of local politics, community news or more. With over 60 local stations in the 603, our communities are full of great people taking to the airwaves to provide solid commentary and information day in and day out. But it's not just the broadcast and filling our day with great content and music that makes local radio vital to our community, it's the support they give us all that makes them one of our best community neighbors.
Friends like Jack Heath, Steve Smith, Drew Cline, and Chris Ryan open their studios to allow those making a difference in our community to tell their story. The advocacy of these people and spotlight the radio hosts give have resulted in policy changes, homes saved, and seniors receiving the care they need. The leaders of the airwaves don't do it just for good radio, they also do it because they are good people. They care about their neighbors and will continue to use their microphones to amplify a message of compassion. But it's more than just the hosts who are making a difference, it's the people behind the scenes and stations themselves.
Recently, WFEA in Manchester turned 90 years old. Think about that! This is the station we have turned to which has given us breaking news such as the ending of WWII, President Kennedy getting shot, and man walking on the moon. Great radio stations like WFEA provide resources to communities while sharing the message of these world-changing events.
WGIR AM has been the dial people have gone to for political news, but I remember a true heartfelt story that was never shared on air. On 9/11 a family friend was in college down in New York. The phone lines were all down, cell signals weren’t working, and communications were at a standstill. One of the hosts was able to talk to my friend via AOL instant messenger. The host called this person’s parents to let them know he was safe and okay. That’s true support of thy neighbor right there!
My local news station in Newport, WCNL, works hard to keep our community informed and always takes the time to recognize the great work the people of the Sunshine Town are doing. Steve Smith does a terrific job on the air – and is also a leader in the community, active in the Chamber of Commerce and so much more.
The Granite State is fortunate to have stations where we can tune in, be informed and be supported. We owe a great debt to those who take to the airways and work tirelessly day in and day out for they are true influencers committed to taking care of their neighbors.
Positive Profile of the Week – P.J. Lovely - A Man ‘of and for’ Newport
This week we are delighted to highlight a terrific friend and inspirational leader in my hometown of Newport, P.J. Lovely.
“We never give up,” said Newport Recreation Director P.J. Lovely. He was talking about the Newport Winter Carnival and ensuring that it continued for its 106th straight year but that phrase exemplifies his attitude in life. P.J. is the embodiment of the great spirit that inspires the community known as the Sunshine Town – Newport, New Hampshire.
I have known, respected, and admired the Lovely family for many, many years. P.J.’s dad, Peter R. Lovely was a stalwart of the community, a prominent banker, a proud veteran, and a great friend. P.J. has carried his dad’s commitment to the town of Newport forward and has achieved so very much for the community, our youth, our seniors, and all of those he has touched.
P.J.’s life has been intertwined with Newport for many years. During his high school years at Newport, he was a star track athlete, a jumper and short-distance sprinter. Then, going on to Springfield College where he started with track but switched to rugby his remaining years there. In 1995, he returned to his high school alma mater becoming Newport’s track coach and has never looked back! In 2021, he was named the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association ‘NH Boys Track Coach of the Year!’ This was quite an achievement as he was recognized by his NH peers including Divisions 1 and 2 and was the only winner from NH.
However, P.J. is primarily known in Newport as our longtime Director of Recreation. And he has done an outstanding job – injecting a positivity and enthusiasm that is genuine and infectious. In fact, in 2018 he was recognized as the Southwest Regional Champion for Children. This is an award presented by the NH School Administrators Association to community members who have given distinguished public service to benefit children.
The people recommending him had this to say about him and which truly exemplifies where his heart and passion lie…
Christy Whipple said, “PJ Lovely has an energy surrounding him that is almost tangible…PJ goes above and beyond to connect with every child and every family so that they feel valued, included and essential to whatever activity is at hand.”
Jeff Miller added, “He is the unofficial “Mayor” for young children and families. He goes above and beyond to make sure that every stone gets unturned to provide the best recreational activities for every child in the community.
Finally, Ben Gallagher said, “He pushes us to be the best we can be. He encourages us to push ourselves past our limits and work our hardest; both in skills that we are learning and into everyday life. I also think that most of my friends would agree that PJ Lovely is a Champion for kids.
Lovely responded to these with this comment… “I’m very humbled with the award as there are many more deserving folks who do a lot behind the scenes, who also should be applauded and thanked. I’m proud to represent our Town – which is filled with the volunteer spirit.”
And fortunately for Newport, the Lovely track and sports tradition continues with the Lovely kids outstanding athletes. And as for continuing, so will the Newport Winter Carnival because as P.J. says…“For 106 years in a row, no matter what, we have kept it running. That tradition is never going to stop.” Newport is truly blessed to have the positive energy and spirit of PJ Lovely.
Quotes of the Week: Bedford Falls
“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”
“Hello, Bedford Falls!”
“A toast to my big brother George: The richest man in town.”
“Potter isn't selling. Potter's buying, and why? Because we're panicky and he's not. That's why. He's picking up some bargain.”
“Bread… that this house may never know hunger. [Mary hands a loaf of bread to Mrs. Martini] / Mary: Salt… that life may always have flavor. [Mary hands a box of salt to Mrs. Martini] / George: And wine… that joy and prosperity may reign forever. Enter the Martini Castle.”
Mary and George Bailey