The Block Island Times

Editorial: Thanks for giving

Nov 25, 2011

With all the unnerving political and economic tumult in the news of late, it’s been heartening to see one of Block Island’s finest, Mary Donnelly, serve as a bit of hope — and on a national scale.

This fall she has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, as well as on CBS and NBC news. Now the rest of the country knows what island residents have known for decades: She’s truly one of a kind and a godsend to the island community. The Mary D. Fund has become an indispensable financial resource for many year-round island residents who otherwise could not make ends meet.

But the country also learned about something else: the seemingly endless, often selfless, generosity of Block Islanders who take it for granted that they should look out for one another.

Mary would be the first to say, and indeed did say repeatedly in the recent interviews, that the fund exists not only for, but also because of the community. She’s the middleman — but it’s the community that replenishes the fund, year in and year out. No giving, no fund.

This newspaper frequently serves as a testimonial to Block Island’s generosity. It’s not unusual for the letters to the editor section to be dominated by “thank you” letters — to businesses and residents alike — for going to bat, again and again, to help community members and institutions. This week is no exception.

“Giving fatigue,” a worry across the nation, never seems to set in here. Certainly we’re not the only town with generous denizens, but we are a shining example.

There’s an argument going on around the world and in this country, exemplified by the Occupy Wall Street and Tea Party movements on their opposite poles: To what extent should the parts contribute to the health of the whole? How do we best secure and maintain the social contract?

As we all know, there’s a vast spectrum of opinion on this issue.

And while Block Island can’t necessarily claim to have struck upon the correct balance (otherwise there’d be no need for the Mary D. Fund, right?), at least we for the most part quietly do our best to make sure everyone’s alright.

For one thing is indisputable: We’re all in this together. Out on tiny Block Island, isolated as we are out in the Atlantic Ocean, that reality is brought into stark relief.

So when you sit down with family and friends to enjoy your turkey this week, take time to remember not only how lucky you are not only to be with them, but also that you are fortunate enough to live in a community that is ready to help in times of trouble.

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