In recent years it has become popular and fashionable to refer to Route 66 as a linear community. I would be hard pressed to find a better analogy, especially in light of a few developments this month.
At its core most every community, unless it is a place like Glenrio or Amboy, functions in about the same manner. The folks who call it home all play their part.
You have the good ole boys who feel a God given right to dictate policy based upon past accomplishments or something their grandfather did. The worst of this breed are those who would rather derail the train than share control of the locomotive with anyone else.
The tragedy is that more often than not, these folks once made tremendous contributions to the community. Now, instead of providing leadership based on wisdom gained only with the experience of years, they worry over their legacy and see progress as a personal threat because it represents a future in which they may not be remembered.
As they shuffle along with an ever increasing surliness and bitterness, a youngster eager to cling tight to their coat tails filled with the hope that someday they will inherit the kingdom through association rather than accomplishment will join in their parade of self absorbed tragedy. These tragic folks are easy to spot, even coated in the dust that comes from riding tail.
They puff up their chest like a bantam rooster, crow as though they are the cock of the walk in a valiant effort to drown out competition real or perceived, lack original ideas, and carry an air of imagined importance as they whisper honey dipped words in their benefactors ear. They are a dangerous and pitiful lot.
The size of the wake of destruction they leave behind is usually in direct correlation to the frustration and bitterness that engulfs them when the respect they covet but refuse to earn proves elusive.
Then you have the folks that are generous to a fault. Their motivation is opposite that of those who glide through life on gilded coattails. Rather than preface every action and word with thoughts of what the benefit may be, they instead give without reservation.
Idealists and visionaries who dream big and never tire of chasing rainbows and unicorns are the ones that determine if a community thrives or withers on the vine, but only if the passions can be harnessed by an individual capable of transforming them into realities by inspiring a legion of folks who don’t mind getting their hands dirty.
The people who stop by to enjoy a fun filled holiday or a bit of history seldom peek behind the curtain to see the battle for balance that makes it a place they wish to visit. That is as it should be.
The things and attributes that make a community a place where people want to live and visit, a place that people describe with words like charming and special, are fragile and fleeting. If that community is to thrive or even survive care must be taken, the understanding that it is unique and special must be nurtured, and progress needs to be charted with one eye on the future and one on the past. The community of Route 66 is no exception and that is a very hard, cold fact that I hope we never forget.
Next year the world will celebrate the 90th anniversary of this storied old highway with passion. Whether this amazing old road, the vibrant, exciting, alluring, and fascinating community of Route 66 is celebrated with similar zeal during its centennial will depend on the stewardship give it this year and int he year to come.