By Barbara Lewis
Wayne County, Pennsylvania is an idyllic place to live, a place where we’re proud to have been born or overjoyed to have adopted as our country home. It has rolling hills, beautiful countryside, plentiful streams and lakes for fishing, boating, and swimming. Life is quiet here, yet there’s quite a variety of interesting activities to participate in, when the spirit moves us, and restaurants to dine in, when we feel a sociable impulse or a disinclination to cook at home.
So…challenges…they may not immediately meet the eye. But yes, they’re here. The increasing number of school kids getting free school lunches, families relying on the food pantries to put meals on their tables, and the rise in bullying and teen suicides in our school community are sobering reminders that things aren’t so easy for a lot of our neighbors and even our own families. Challenges, indeed, are part of daily life for many people in Wayne County.
Dairy farms continue to close and families struggle to find decent-paying work within a reasonable distance of home; local jobs paying minimum wage do not provide a living wage to a family, unless one has two or three of them. Students managing to get through college emerge with degrees but huge student loan debt, and can’t find jobs in their field or for wages that allow them to support themselves or a family. Those of us who are retired find our “fixed incomes” increasingly inadequate to meet medical bills and living expenses. Times are hard.
Yet life is also good in many ways. There’s a growing sense of community here that’s tangible when you buy your produce from local farmers, grab a healthy, reasonable lunch at the health food store and eat it in the park, or walk to the Cooperage for an evening of entertainment or contra dancing. The local libraries provide an amazing array of services to people at any income level, and a place to socialize, too! The YMCA offers classes, a cardiac program, yoga and tai chi, as well as sports programs. Shade trees, overflowing pots of multi-colored flowers, and small garden plots tended by caring citizens keep our town beautiful.
The huge audience of local people attending the recent presentation of the “Rachel’s Challenge” program at our local high school shows that many of us care about the quality of life of our children and want to make kindness part of our interactions with each other.
The opening of The Stoneworks Learning Center in Honesdale gives us many new options for alternative and continuing education for children, teens, and adults.
So life in Wayne County goes on. We come together with friends and neighbors…old and new…to do our best to create a good life for ourselves here. Each of us can only do a small part to make life better for us all, but aggregately all those “little” individual acts of kindness, caring, and openness go a long way toward creating something better than any of us can do on our own. We are about community. Reaching out to our neighbors–whether they’re “like us” or not–taking the opportunity to say a kind word, open a door, check on someone elderly, share a bowl of soup or fresh-baked muffin with a neighbor. It all matters very much. Life is challenging, but we’re here to help and support each other in meeting those challenges every day, and to create beautiful moments we can cherish with each other.