What is our identity?
To the Editor:
Over the past 10 years, I have witnessed the identity of the citizens of the River Valley, especially in Rumford, change at an alarming rate to now I am not sure if we know who we are as a community.
When I moved to the area in 2003 we were clearly known locally and around the state as a mill town, filled with good people who loved to work hard to make an honest living. However, today, as I work with many families of various backgrounds and communicate with people of various backgrounds, our identity is shifting to unhealthy stereotypes such as "welfare town," "mental illness haven," and "no place for business."
Some people want government to do more, other people want the government to do less, and the last group of people don't think it matters because there will be no town left in five to 10 years to worry about anyway.
One thing I have learned in my life as a pastor, teacher, and mentor, "a house divided cannot stand." Frustration is looming in the town hall, the police are underfunded and under staffed, some teachers are discouraged by the amount of red-tape and behavior problems in the classroom, many parents feel helpless, and the business community is just trying to survive the storm.
As a pastor, my job takes me into all walks of life and permits me to talk with great people every day that want to help. Consequently, I am beginning to see faces of desperation appear to the point of becoming extremely concerned as our identity as a community is lost.
When people become desperate, results will vary within the walls of a community. Some people will have lapses of moral judgment, others will develop a strong dislike for their neighbor, and some will just simply quit due to extreme frustration and/or apathy. However, I prefer people to step up, be willing to work hard, while making tough decisions (government and home), help one's neighbor when a need arises, and sooner rather than later begin to trust men and women in positions of authority. In a time where there is great transition in local government, school board, and other places significance, as well as many varying ideas that may or may not cost a lot of money, we must be resolved and determined to see the River Valley survive this crisis of identity.
Adults, our children are watching everything we say and do. I believe we have a responsibility to raise them up to be God fearing citizens who strive to work hard no matter the task, while following the laws of our land, so that upon adulthood they will be ready to carry-out productive lives in the River Valley rather than spend time in jail or leave our area for so called "greener pastures."
I fully understand the task at hand as I, too, deal with several problems everyday similar to that of law enforcement, education, government, and the medical field. However, together we can be part of the solution to finding once again our identity as citizens of the River Valley of Maine.
Nevertheless, we cannot begin this project until we know who we are as an individual. As Celtic great Larry Bird said shortly after winning the 1986 NBA championship, "To be successful in life, one must be willing to work hard, be dedicated, and be willing to sacrifice."
May this be the attitude and the identity of the River Valley. I pray that good times will be here again. Without question, I love working and living in the River Valley. I just hope others do to, before it is too late.
Pastor Justin Thacker