“After a decade and a half of working on the issues facing the world’s poorest people, I like to call myself an impatient optimist.”
Melinda Gates from an article in the Gates Foundation newsletter, May 20, 2015
While SALT does not work with the world’s poorest people like Bill and Melinda Gates, I certainly can identify with her sentiments. When I talk with local businesses who have worked so hard to recover from the devastating results of Hurricane Irene and yet have major losses to recoup, I get impatient. The local business owners often lost homes and businesses, which meant their jobs as well. Yet they invested an amazing amount of time, hard work, and money in order to re-open and serve our communities. These important members of each town and village are still working to recover from their financial losses. I see how hard these people work for Schoharie County and I get impatient for them to be successful.
I get impatient when it is hard to resource funds for the important recovery work that still remains. Long-term recovery is just that: long. So it should not be surprising to the funding world that the need for funds continues. Each citizen of the county was affected either directly or indirectly by the events of 2011. Long-term recovery also affects everyone by improving the whole community. So I get impatient for enough funding to follow-through on all the ideas to move the county forward faster.
I get impatient when I talk with local residents and they still get emotional when retelling their flood stories. I want them to be able to release their PTSD so they are not afraid when hard rains come or the practice warning siren goes off every month.
But I am optimistic as well. I am optimistic because local businesses are still in business and being supported by local patrons. And because the business owners made the commitment to repopulate our villages and towns, inspiring confidence in the business climate which helps bring other businesses into the area.
I am optimistic because volunteers continue to assist, thus enabling us to leverage the funds effectively. And donors are joining the SALT recurring donor team whereby they make modest monthly donations on a regular basis, helping to insure that the important recovery and revitalization work continues.
And I am optimistic because more and more residents are sharing their stories of moving past the PTSD by helping others in the community. The work that has been accomplished with the help of so many community members inspires me every day. The renewed commitment to the area and the energy that has been generated is another reason for great optimism.
Being an impatient optimist is not so bad. The impatience to see progress helps drive all of us forward. Recognition of the huge amount of progress creates optimism. Both of these will keep the energy flowing to continue moving the county forward toward the vision of a vibrant, thriving and sustainable community.