The movie captures one of my core philosophies of life: the notion of chipping away. In the face of futility, continue to live your life. Stay true to your values, and solve the problems you can — one, then another, then another — not in hopes of triumphing over an insurmountable challenge, but because as human beings, solving problems one at a time is what we do.
At the council retreat over this past weekend, I got to know the other council members and key staff a little better. I was heartened to learn that a number of them had at some point lived in places with long, snowy winters. Negotiating tough winters requires that people collect and evaluate data (Are the highways closed? Have the plows come through? How fast is the snow accumulating?), weigh the risks and benefits (Is going to the store for milk worth the risk of falling and breaking a hip?), and make sound decisions that could affect the lives of other people (If my car skids off the road, who might be hit?).
Snow builds character, or so my parents led us kids to believe. Those relentless snowstorms, from October through April, the repeated shoveling, the tense driving on slippery roads foster perseverance, intrepidness and resilience. Whether winter-weathered council members reveal those characteristics sooner or later, I am gratified to know the stuff of which they are made.
I also was surprised to observe that almost all of the council members and staff at the retreat are introverts. Usually, being an introvert is coupled with traits of self-reflection and curiosity about others and the tendency to observe before acting. All qualities I want to see in people making decisions that affect my quality of life.
And I noted that when it came to our individual visions for the town, we had much in common. Our differences came in the process we believed we should implement to get there. For instance, if we agree that a 4-story building is appropriate on some corner, are we willing to impose by-right zoning and trust the outcome to the developer, or do we want a special-use permit so we know what we’re getting? If we can’t agree on the process, we may lose the building we think would benefit the town.
As the amount of buildable land quickly diminishes, we, as a council, will have some important decisions coming up. I believe we’ll get where we want to go, if we just chip away.
– Nancy Oates