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Editorial Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, February 19, 2009

We’ll make progress by building community, not by wallowing in the Slough of Despond

The news is depressing. The releases crossing our desk these days range from the small and personal — a family that has lost its home is looking for someone to take its beloved dogs — to the statewide and sweeping. Tuesday, for example, a release from the governor’s office declared the governor and legislative leaders had reached a revenue consensus.

“The consensus forecast for New York State,” it said, “reflects a broad-based recession that has engulfed both Wall Street and Main Street. Employment and wages, as well as total personal income, are all projected to fall in 2009…..With indicators from credit-market sensitive sectors, such as housing starts and vehicle sales, at or near historical lows, the parties find virtually no upside potential to the consensus forecast. In addition, the uncertainty surrounding the depth and duration of the global recession forms an additional source of downside risk to the forecast.”

We are wallowing in the Slough of Despond. For Christian, the star of John Bunyon’s great 17th-Century allegory, The Pilgrim’s Progress, that is the low ground where the scum and filth of a guilty conscience gather.  Help throws him a rope so he can continue on his journey of self-discovery.

In a modern secular parallel, we need to look to each other for our salvation. This week, the cover of our Progress Edition shows pilgrims of a different sort. They inhabit what appears to be a fairytale world. No Slough of Despond here. The sun is radiant, shining over all. The plants are lush.

But look carefully — you’ll see the magic is not in the fantasy but in the community.

These are people who live closely together; the threads of their lives intersect to weave a whole cloth. The fanciful art by Forest Byrd references the reality inside the pages of the Progress Edition.

The stork perched whimsically on the rooftop delivering, not a baby, but precious packages nonetheless, is a nod to the local UPS Store. The 20-year owner, who started working at the store in 1992, Brian Clark, says he’s thankful for two decades of “excellent community support.”

The nun, standing in an open doorway, arm outstretched, welcomes a child. Inside the section, the principal of Christ the King School in Guilderland tells how diverse students and their families are welcomed. “There’s a feeling of family here,” says Principal Judith Smith.

The art of Tae Kwon Do is glimpsed through a studio window as a master teaches his student. Inside, Master Rice of Guilderland Martial Arts, says, “I make character-building a part of every class, rewarding great behavior and having students set good examples for one another. This is so much more effective, and easier, than focusing on the negative.”

How true. We will get out of the Slough of Despond if we set an example in leading others forward. Such words of wisdom are not always easy to follow but they are worthwhile.

Some pleasures, though, are easily celebrated and shared. Our cover depicts the sign of a chocolate bunny, over a candy shop, dripping goodness caught by a girl below. Inside, the story of Guilderland’s Candy Kraft is detailed, beginning with Claude Ball in 1935, selling candies handmade with cream delivered by horse-drawn wagon. Like so many local businesses featured in our Progress Edition, Candy Kraft caters to the individual. “Have you ever wanted a chocolate that no one seems to make?” ask the Pikcilingises. “Since we make our own creams and dip them ourselves, we welcome your requests.”

Imagine that. It’s not a storybook fantasy, but real. In a world of mass-produced commodities, there are still businesses with people who know you that will meet your requests and needs.

Garry Robinson’s Hardware Store on Western Avenue in Guilderland is living proof of that. Despite the ragged economy that has closed the doors of some of his big-box competitors, the locally owned hardware store finished strong in its 50th year.  Robinson remembers the arrival of national chain tool stores as a scary time. “We knew we had to get down to basics,” he said and decided that Robinson’s Hardware would offer customers quality things at good prices and serve them with a dedicated, knowledgeable staff, as his father had been doing since 1958 and his son will after him.

High above the candy shop on our cover, a builder lays bricks on a rooftop.  Inside our section, Jon Beresford, a real-life builder, says, “We are very thankful to our many loyal clients who enable us to remain busy during these difficult economic times.”

Yes, shopping locally, supporting our neighbors can make a difference in tough times. The community pictured on our Progress cover is one where people care about one another and are happier for it.

A car-repair shop references Rt. 85 Bodyworks, a new business modeled on an old ethic. Co-owner Jon Kaiser has based his business philosophy on that of his mentor, the late Neale Dunston. Dunston found success on New Scotland’s Route 85 by caring about the community as much as he cared about the hobbled cars brought to his shop by tow truck.

We don’t need to sink in the slough. We can, instead, paint the sort of uplifting picture that Forest Byrd has sketched for us. It’s more than just shopping locally to save fuel. We can build our community by looking out for one another. It’s no coincidence that The Enterprise is part of the picture, too.

We winced in pain this week to learn that more newspapers owners have declared bankruptcy. But we’re staying out of the slough by serving our readers as we have for 124 years, making individuals into a community. If we’re all on the same page, we’ll progress.

— Melissa Hale-Spencer, editor

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