Resilient Communities are the Foundations of a Resilient America.

A community is like a comfortable old car…

I finished with my meetings a little earlier than expected one day last week, and stopped in at my friend Dooley’s pub.  Miss Edna, Dooley’s cook and long-time FWB, cooks the best hamburger east of the Mississippi, and I was hungry.  Business was a little slow, so Miss Edna came out front to chat.  She’s a cute little thing, looks sort of like Mrs. Claus before she met Santa, all dimples and smiles and nicely rounded.

“Where’s Dooley?” I asked.

With a somewhat disgusted look on her face, “Oh, he’s working on that old car again.  You know, that beat up old Buick he drives.  It’s all he can do to keep that thing running.”  Just then, we both heard the rasp of metal on metal as Dooley pulled around the back.

“Dr P!” he exclaimed as he broke into a big smile as he came in through the kitchen.  “I was just thinking about you this morning when I was working on the old Buick.”

“Bubba, why don’t you get rid of that rattletrap, and get yourself into something safer?”

Bubba D’s face lit up with his “sort of sneaky” grin – you know the one, the one where he thinks he has a secret that you’re going to pay for, one way or another.  “Well, you know, that’s why I was thinking about you.”

“Huh?” I grunted, oh so articulately.

“Well, sir, as I was working on the Buick, I got to thinking about what you said the other day about community whatchamacallit.”  “Resilience?”  “Yup, that’s it.”

“As I was trying to get the Buick to run smoother, I started thinking about why I’d kept this old car so long.  It doesn’t run so well, it needs a new paint job, but it’s the most comfortable car I’ve ever owned.  And then I got thinking about my Daddy who stayed in the Valley even after all the textile jobs were gone.  I asked him once why he stayed, and he told me that he just didn’t feel comfortable anywhere else.

And that got me thinking.  A community is kinda like this old car.  If you stick with it long enough, you just feel comfortable.  But if you don’t tend to it, it’ll break down on you, just when you don’t want it to.  I’ve been talking to my buddy George – you know – the fella who runs the auto parts yard out on Highway One.  He’ll sell me a new engine, and even help me with the work to replace the old one.  But when I think about the cost, it seems to me that even with the good deal, I’ll only just about break even.
But just last evening – after you’d left to go home, Sugar Lips – Ed of Ed’s Used Cars came in for a late one before he went home.  You know, he’s got the meanest tempered, ugliest, no account wife in this county.  Why he stays with that woman I’ll never know.

Anyway, we got to talking, and Ed told me that he had a three year old Buick he couldn’t move.  Only had 25,000 miles on it, but was kind of an ugly color, and used premium gas.  He said he’d sell it to me for way below list, because of how I’d helped him during the ice storm.  Babe, (turning to Miss Edna) this would be a real breakthrough for our banking account.  All of the money I’ve poured into that old car we could spend on ourselves.  Maybe get some new furniture in here, or spruce up the place a bit to keep the customers coming back.

Anyway, Dr P, it’s sorta the same with a community.  If you don’t tend to it, it’ll break down on you.  That’s kinda what we saw on TV from New Orleans during Katrina.  Or, you can keep on spending money on keeping it running, and just barely break even, like we’re doing here in town, not much growth and young folks starting to leave for better chances in bigger cities.  Or, best of all, you can find an opportunity, grab aholt of it with both hands, and it can mean a real breakthrough.  Look at what they’ve done in Horry County with all of the new jobs they’ve brought in, and what they could be fixing to do.”

Dooley may not be elegant, but when he’s right, he’s right on.  Breakdown, break even or breakthrough – what kind of community do you want to live in?