One beautiful day this fall I was driving around doing my errands when I passed a farmhouse shaded by trees. I was forcefully struck by the beauty of the well kept house in a peaceful shade. I was also struck by the thought that this is what prosperity looks like.
As we have traveled through the political campaign season, and the harvest season on our way to Thanksgiving I cannot help thinking about what it means to be prosperous, personally, in our community, and in our nation.
According to my American Heritage Dictionary prosperity means “the condition of having good fortune or financial success.” I was interested that the first condition is having good fortune, with financial success coming second. Certainly the United States is fortunate in the wealth of its natural resources and the vast acreage of fertile farmlands. It is fortunate in its hardworking population; a population ever revitalized by immigrants from all over the world who bring intelligence, strength, creativity and energy to benefit the nation as they build prosperity for their own families.
The dictionary does not define financial success. What does it take to feel financially successful? I don’t think it requires great wealth, but it does require a sufficiency. It requires enough to provide a safe and warm home, enough food and clothing, access to health care and something left over for pleasures of the mind and
Fortunately it does not take great wealth to enjoy a rich life. A rich life is made up of loving family and friends, and of involvement with community enterprises. Rewarding work is a large part of a rich life, but rewarding work does not always bring great wealth as any teacher, farmer, bank manager, nurse, car mechanic, plumber or electrician will tell you.
Our region is fortunate in its rich history of prudence and prosperity. We have good farmlands, beautiful hills and rivers that attract visitors from around the world, and a multitude of small and large businesses. We are fortunate in our population of intelligent, energetic and creative people who make up a vibrant community engaging in business, agriculture, the arts, and service to their towns by volunteering for town offices and boards.
It takes intelligence and labor to build prosperity. Whether we labor in the fields, in supermarkets, in restaurants, schools, hospitals or offices, we have to think, solve problems, and build relationships. We have to plan, and plan again when circumstances change.
When I plan and work in my spring garden I spread my resources of compost, fertilizers and seeds. Yet I may have to alter plans, and possibly gather new resources as the season progresses bringing drought or flood, insects or disease, or some other concern of my own that shortens my hours of garden labor.
So as I travel to Shelburne and Greenfield, make side trips to Ashfield and Deerfield and other surrounding towns I admire the well kept farmhouses, suburban streets, and new condominiums, but I also travel past the food pantries at the Center for Self Reliance and the Survival Center. I donate money and bake bread for the Food Distribution at the Charlemont Federated Church. The Recorder joins with Wilson’s Department store to sponsor and promote Warm the Children, an effort that supplies over 1000 children with vital winter clothing. Not all of us are enjoying good fortune.
I read news of business closings on the front page of newspapers and I see the list of home foreclosures on the back pages. It is easy to see that it takes more than intelligence and energy to build prosperity. It takes good luck as well.
And so as Thanksgiving approaches and I set off to buy cranberries, pumpkin, and apples, my contributions to the Family Feast, along with my homegrown squash, I give thanks for my own good fortune. I pray for good fortune for us all. I pray that all our legislators will work together with wisdom to find a way to take us all down the road to prosperity for all.
Between the Rows November 17, 2012