Source: The Corydon Democrat

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Halloween and families
Community conversations

by Judy O'Bannon

October 22, 2013

There are a lot of scary things going on these days, and they aren't all connected with Halloween. Our government had been shut down due to discord among lawmakers, our climate is changing as a result of human actions and foreign countries are experiencing civil wars and terrorist activity. It will take more than a Halloween mask to hide us from the turmoil.

Recently, I had a reunion with an old friend from Tokyo. I have written about him in this column as the once little boy who was saved from starvation by a daily "little bowl of noodles" at the end the World War II. His dedication to productive bonds between our two countries comes from his appreciation of the American food relief during the reconstructive period in his hometown.

At our recent meeting, he was pondering, "What makes a society peaceful." We chatted about those things that make for quality individuals and ethically productive communities. What ingredients are essential for individual health and the well being of the total world community?

We parted company that day more perplexed than ever but with a zeal to keep thinking about the greatest problem of mankind: how to build a future with peace within each of us and between all of us.

I gained a little insight while touring the historic area where the Pilgrims landed. The Plymouth colony was the first settlement in this new world founded by families rather than single men. As we climbed on the replica Mayflower, we were told of the 50 men, 20 women and 30 children who were crammed in its small quarters for 66 days. The beds were tiny and hard, and even standing room would have been scarce. There was no privacy, the food was of poor quality and almost everyone got sick. Now, these were miserable people and our problems of today would certainly have seemed beyond them.

We visited the restored Plymouth town looking for clues as to how they survived. Just keeping alive was a major hurdle, particularly for the women and children. I image they took better care of their health and living conditions than a bunch of single adventurous men would have. Because they came with children, they planned for the future. This meant they needed institutions to foster learning skills and to develop beliefs that would fortify them. So, churches and schools were part of the early colony. They built communities for immediate security and long-term sustainability. They made permanent settlements, not temporary outposts. They had mutually agreed upon standards, laws and governing bodies. They acted like an interdependent family.

By contrast, I remember visiting my sister who lived in upscale Carmel, Calif. While I was there, she spent a lot of her time on the phone trying to promote a bond issue to keep the public schools open. They did not, as I recall, have enough savings to replace the old boilers on the schools' furnaces. The problem was that most of the citizens in that plush part of the world were retired and seemed to believe that schools were "no longer their problem."

It is easy to become focused on our own personal interests as we journey through life's obstacles. Family involvement reminds us daily of the need to be part of a group for survival.

As I walked through the museum village of Plymouth, I thought of our own Southern Indiana communities. Are we family friendly? What do we need to provide that will develop quality individuals and productive peaceful communities? Do we have public spaces where we get to know each other during common experiences? Do we provide intergenerational opportunities? Do we make the amenities of our communities available to all? Can a person access their needs and wants in a way that respects their individuality? Do we welcome and appreciate diversity of ideas and cultures? Are we eager and encouraging to elements of change? Do we encourage discussion of issues and ideas as families and as a community? It takes both a positive mindset and up-to-date physical infrastructure to build workable communities.

Do you believe you are a part of the community family in our county? Does it matter to you what happens to others? Are you aware of what is going on in your community? What do you wish The Corydon Democrat and the Clarion News would provide in their publications to enable you to be more involved with your family, friends and neighbors?

To live in a family-friendly place is no trick; it is a real treat. In autumn, we are surrounded by the reminders of planting and harvesting, of communal accomplishments that prepare us for the future. We are the descendants of those early immigrants to our country. We carry the courage, integrity and vision they possessed. As I look around Southern Indiana, I see fertile conditions for the richest lifestyle on Earth.