This past Fourth of July holiday, Kitsap Regional Library staff took the day off to celebrate our nation’s independence with their families. I enjoyed my day by sleeping in, reading until late afternoon, shopping for food and party supplies with my wife and eating too much good food while watching our neighbor’s impressive fireworks displays.
I also took some time to reflect, as I often do on my days off, about how fortunate I am. Here I was, getting a paid holiday, in one of the richest countries in the world, in a well-managed city, in a safe neighborhood, where I own my own home. My fridge had good food in it, my yard was well-watered, and my house air conditioned (well, one room at least). How many people around the globe can say the same thing? Can everyone in Kitsap County even say the same thing? Despite how hard I have worked for all these blessings, I am profoundly aware of how lucky I am.
Moreover, as I drove through my town on the Fourth of July, I noticed the freshly painted lines on many of our streets. As I drove down Port Orchard Boulevard, I remembered the workers who had cut back the brush and trees this past spring. I noted how busy the fire fighters, police officers, and paramedics were - responding to emergencies, and keeping us safe. I took my dog for a walk in a City park and remembered the plans that the mayor shared for making our parks and streets better – for revitalizing our downtown – and for rebuilding city infrastructure. I reflected on how I always had clean water delivered via pipes right to my house, and a sewer system that briskly delivered used water and waste to a treatment facility. I thought about the courts that strive for justice and the protection of our civil liberties. I thought about the City workers that put up lights on Bay Street in December, and the people who water all the flowers that keep our downtown looking pretty. I watched my neighbor’s kids play and thought about how they all have access to a public education, should they choose to take advantage of it.
Are all these public institutions perfect? Of course not. I hope you don’t take away from all this reflection and appreciation that I am some dewy-eyed optimist! As Voltaire alludes in Candide, those who think this is “the best of possible worlds” are probably somewhat deluded. Government and the public sector are not perfect, but I know a whole lot of public servants who are truly good people. These teachers, library workers, city/county employees, soldiers and protective service workers (to only name the most obvious public professions) go to work each day, and strive to make this world a better place. I hear them behind closed doors and can tell you that with extremely few exceptions, they are deeply committed to the public good. This July 4th – I found myself thankful for their “cultivation of our [community] garden." After all, a garden is never perfect. All we can do is tend to it. We can light the candle in the darkness. We can make the world a better place one small bit at a time.