By Tiffanie Story
With Thanksgiving just around the corner, my thoughts turn to community and the meaning of it. Maybe it’s because I find myself feeling sentimental, having given birth to and raised my two daughters right here in Homer.
Our youngest, Zoe, is now a senior at Homer High, and I know there is a good chance she will not be home with us next year at this time. She will be off experiencing new and exciting adventures elsewhere. Still, I hope she takes with her the sense of community she’s been brought up in right here in our little cosmic hamlet by the sea.
To me, the community that is Homer is made up of wonderful, unique people who live and do business here. When a neighbor’s house burns down, we immediately begin gathering donations of clothing, household goods and money to help the family start anew.
When a beloved member of the community becomes ill or passes unexpectedly, our town grieves with those who knew them best. Often, fundraisers are held to raise money for the family.
If you’re new to Homer, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved. If you don’t have family living here, you will feel as though you do, before you know it. Homer is where, when you go to your favorite gift shop or grocery store, people call you by name and ask about your family. Yes, Homer is where my family has chosen to raise our children and the community we call home.
I think this is why it frustrates me, and others, when it seems some of our elected and unelected officials don’t understand the meaning of community.
What strikes me is that much of the “regulation” and “code” some claim is so important to enforce to ensure our “community” runs smoothly, are really not very neighborly or community-minded at all.
I believe it would serve them well to be reminded by those of us willing to do so, that Homer is not a better, more enjoyable place to live because of code enforcement against community small businesses over the size of their signage or disallowing sandwich board signs (except for a certain amount of days of the year).
Homer, our community, would be better-served by thanking those who invest in their buildings and renovations, rather than harassing these people at every turn with code enforcement. I, for one, enjoy watching the progress of a renovation done well whenever I’m driving through town.
It has been said that we must run the city like a business. Well, my husband and I have been in business in this town for nearly 20 years, and I can’t imaging treating our customers or clients the way the people in our town have been treated by our very own city.
Consider the people’s homes that were flooded with sewer. As a business woman, I cannot imagine saying “sue us,” believing our attorneys would find a loophole that might get us out of having to make that right.
Or, in the case of the untimely and tragic death of the man owning and running the inn at the top of the hill, because of city “code,” the family can no longer run it or sell it as a business.
No, this does not seem very community-minded or neighborly to me. Sadly, the list of injustices done to our neighbors and friends goes on longer than I care to think about.
I did not choose to raise my family here in the community of Homer because of its regulations and enforcement of them. I chose here, because of the way neighbor treats neighbor. It’s not because of a lack of plastic bag usage or because we only have one stop light. These are things the people of Homer may never fully agree on — and we don’t need to for Homer to be a special place to live.
At this time of year especially, consider what it means to be a good neighbor. Go out of your way to shovel the walkway for an elderly neighbor, or deliver a meal to someone you know is feeling under the weather.
We will, of course, have ample opportunity to “Share the Spirit,” as well as give to other organizations that support those in need in our community. As we do so, maybe we can be an example of the true meaning of community.
Tiffanie Story, along with her husband Chris, has raised two daughters in Homer, Alaska with current events and community issues as regular topics of discussion in the home. Tiffanie is co-owner of Story Real Estate and founder of Alaskaloha.com.
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