By Fred Benson
For the past two years, “Summer Reflections” columns have focused on experiences departing from the norm of political commentary and, instead, highlighting the good that can exist in our society. First was the idyllic setting of a week at the Maine Fiddle Camp, a gathering where all present were devoted to learning new skills and enjoying the progress being made by players from ages 7 to 70-plus. There was humor, joy, trust and community involvement that served as a healthy example for all cities and towns in America.
Then last year was a trip to Newfoundland, where it seemed that everyone we met thought of us as new-found friends. As we were leaving a popular and very crowded restaurant where no seats were available, a stranger caught me by the shoulder and invited us to join them at their table. A very lively and friendly evening followed. Later, a man who had politely given us directions to Cape Spear then followed us 22 miles just to make sure we arrived there safely. The entire visit was enhanced by many such gestures of kindness.
This year, the reflection offered to readers is a thankful look at our own backyard, Mount Desert Island. It is quite possible that we have become so accustomed to the good and the beauty around us that we take our unique island too much for granted. We live amidst the glorious mountains, waters and trails of the most highly regarded national park in America. As has been demonstrated so ably during the Acadia Centennial Celebration, we owe the founders of this grand enterprise our eternal thanks.
We have the Jackson and MDI Biological labs making important contributions to science and our general health. Their employees are significant contributors to our island life in many ways.
We have a hospital where patients are treated medically and personally with the highest standards of care. From personal experience, I can attest to the very high quality of inpatient and emergency services.
We have a YMCA that provides not just sports activities but also childcare, camp experiences, art lessons, sailing classes and opportunities designed specifically for families to enjoy together.
We have safe schools where dedicated teachers and administrators work to create paths for kids of all abilities. And in spite of pressures to cut costs, music and the arts remain very much a part of the learning experience. Evidence of this commitment is that MDI bands and choruses have won many awards in state-wide competition.
We have an Acadia Senior College, where three sessions of classes per year provide intellectual stimulation, practical knowledge and social interaction for hundreds of older MDI residents.
We have the College of the Atlantic, where 350 students from 40 U.S. states and 35 other countries design their own majors in human ecology. Within one year of graduation, 87 percent of COA graduates go on to graduate studies or find a job in their field.
There are more than 125 nonprofit organizations on the island, an amazing array of services and support for our citizens and visitors. To note a few: the 111-year-old Maine Sea Coast Mission provides much needed medical and spiritual support to the fishing islands along the coast and very meaningful after-school programs, scholarship aid and heating assistance for those in need.
We have the Abbe Museum, where the history, culture, art, archeology and contributions of our Native American citizens are highlighted and celebrated.
There are several libraries scattered around MDI where there are not only volumes of reading material but also presentations by noted political figures and authors, art exhibits, films, musical performances and even contra dances.
We have historical societies in several locations doing an outstanding job of bringing the past to the present for all to enjoy. And there are food pantries supported by island churches that provide vouchers for many hundreds of residents every winter.
If we all take time to think about it, MDI is amazing. It is the year-round home of nearly 11,000 residents who bask in the reflected glow of beautiful surroundings, where education is a top priority, where we remain conscious and proud of our history, where many organizations work to ensure that those in need are appreciated and assisted, and where we live in relative safety among people with whom it is very easy to become friends.
This is a great place to live.
Fred Benson is a resident of Mount Desert and publishes Capitol Commentary, an independent political newsletter.