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Teacher learns in the trenches

When you move to a small town, you don’t just buy a home. You join a neighborhood and acquire a community with all of its dilemmas, delights and passions. And so it was that when my neighbor called me one day and said, “John, there is something you should know about,” I became both a curious and apprehensive participant in the world of politics and city government.

My initiation came to pass with a simple, so it would seem, zoning question. The issue was whether to change the zoning or not, so we chose up sides based on our core beliefs of what we knew to be fundamentally right. Logic and emotion were offered up by both sides, and then it was left to the politicians to sort it all out and render a decision. In the end we all went away, the winners flush with victory and the losers sure that the tide could have been turned if only we could have offered that one more elusive argument. I say “we” because I was on the losing team.

Oh well, if we must lose, at least we can be gracious losers. But, as it turns out, not quite as gracious as some on the opposing team. My wife and I had been in the leadoff for our side and stated our cases to protect the corporate business campus from a commercial invasion, and then we returned to our seats. As it turns out, there was a woman to my wife’s left who was doing the most amazing knitting with rainbow-colored yarn. She got up and very clearly stated a position on the proposed health food market that was exactly the opposite of ours. I can tell you, I was watching very carefully for those knitting needles as she moved in front of us to return to her seat. A short time passed, and she handed a note to my wife. I suspected some unfriendly comment. After a while I asked to see the note and to my surprise, she had complimented my wife on a well- prepared and delivered presentation. She said she belonged to yet another group that could use someone with my wife’s skills, and would she be interested.



Politics has its mysteries, but for my money, it’s the people that are the most interesting part of the process. The health food side spoke with passion and conviction, but most importantly, they stood up and spoke, and I salute each one of them for stating their case. There is also that little matter of their side winning, but let’s not dwell on that now. The point I took away from all of this is that people can make a difference if they are willing to get involved. Sound like an inspirational pep talk you have heard before? Well, it is, and I can tell you from personal experience that those on the winning side looked like they got an extra helping of inspiration.

Fortunately, in this game, everybody gains something. Yes, even us losers. We have met the enemy and discovered they are pretty much like we are, with just a different perspective on some issues. The politicians aren’t unfair, they are just doing a job that very few of us would take on; and the builders, well, they have feelings about quality of life, too, but they also have to make a living. This is such a small community that the person on the opposite side of the issue this time may be on your side the next time. It pays to be respectful and make as many allies as you can. It also pays to study the winning side’s strategy. We losers can always learn a thing or two.




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John Morris is a retired engineer and teacher and has lived in Grass Valley for the past four years.


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