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Give thanks to the generous spirit within us

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UPDATED Nov. 24, 2022: The following opinion was published at Thanksgiving 2021 and republished this year. The story about Sue and Jeff Thompson has touched Arlington deeply. Read an earlier report here >>  As well as a later one >> So has the opinion column about the unexpected passing of Jim Swan. Read it here >> 

Tears turn to hope, as the heart of our community swelled with generosity.

As of Tuesday, Nov. 23, the couple's needs have drawn $64,715. That's more than $53,000 sent since Oct. 22, when YourArlington published the story. Ann Seymour organize the fund-raiser on Oct. 10.

As of Nov. 23, the effort to support the Swan family, organized by Annie Clarke-Lauer on Nov. 9, has received $68,197.

These responses are clear testimony to the bountifulness of Arlington residents and neighbors as well as to the power of a local-news website spreading the word.

Antidote to broader issues?

In this holiday season, we give thanks to all who have risen to the challenge to help those in need.

The desire to give springs from a place within us that may be an antidote to broader national contagions. Enveloping us are Covid-19, the tide of distrust in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election and racial reckonings following the death of George Floyd.

Shut away and masked up since March 2020, we yearn to break free. To do so, some resist science and deny proven health measures. Some seek stricter voting laws. Some take up arms at the U.S. Capitol, in Wisconsin, in Georgia.

These strong public reactions provide a divisive national context that asks: What is happening to our democracy?

The question haunts this year's Thanksgiving.

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No. 137: Red Letter Poems 3.0: 'You have been paid for'

UPDATED Nov. 25: Steven Ratiner, Arlington’s poet laureate, sought submissions in February 2020 from Arlington residents to contribute to "a rather unconventional, utterly delightful way to inject poetry into the everyday." It was to remain secret until its debut during April’s National Poetry Month. Then the coronavirus hit. In June 2021, he offers Red Letters 3.0.

PUBLISHED:  I was asked to write an essay for Askold Melnyczuk’s Arrowsmith Journal about what I learned from the first year of the Red Letter Project.  It also became a meditation about the relationship between poet and reader.  If you’d like to take a look, here is a link – arrowsmithpress.com/community-of-voices -- and you’ll also be able to check out the variety of marvelous literary projects that appear under Askold’s Arrowsmith imprint.  Enjoy!

Steven RatinerSteven Ratiner / David Andrews photo 

The Red Letter Poem Project

The Red Letters 3.0: A New Beginning (Perhaps)   

At the outset of the Covid pandemic, when fear was at its highest, the Red Letter Project was intended to remind us of community: that, even isolated in our separate homes, we could still face this challenge together.  As Arlington’s Poet Laureate, I began sending out a poem of comfort each Friday, featuring the fine talents from our town and its neighbors.  Because I enlisted the partnership of seven local arts and community organizations, distribution of the poems spread quickly – and, with subscribers sharing and re-posting the installments, soon we had readers, not only throughout the Commonwealth, but across the country.  And I delighted in the weekly e-mails I’d receive with praise for the poets; as one reader recently commented: “You give me the gift of a quiet, contemplative break—with something to take away and reflect on.” 

Then our circumstance changed dramatically again: following the murder of George Floyd, the massive social and political unrest, and the national economic catastrophe, the distress of the pandemic was magnified.  Red Letter 2.0 announced that I would seek out as diverse a set of voices as I could find – from Massachusetts and beyond – so that their poems might inspire, challenge, deepen the conversation we were, by necessity, engaged in.

Now, with widespread vaccination, an economic rebound, and a shift in the political landscape, I intend to help this forum continue to evolve – Red Letter 3.0.  For the last 15 months, I’ve heard one question again and again: when will we get back our old lives?  It may pain us to admit it, but that is little more than a fantasy.  Our lives have been altered irrevocably – not only our understanding of how thoroughly interdependent we are, both locally and globally, but how fragile and utterly precious is all that we love.  Weren’t you bowled over recently by how good it felt just to hug a friend or family member?  Or to walk unmasked through a grocery, noticing all the faces?

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YOUR VIEW: Opinions: Giving, poetry, thanks, water, Clark, farewells, Alewife, Mugar

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