27 Jan 2015

Standing Together On Nantucket


Last week the nation paused to honor the life of a man whose courage and wisdom still impact us today. If Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had ever visited Nantucket, he might have modified one of his most famous quotes to say, “The ultimate measure of an island is not where it stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where it stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

It’s easy to see and feel the warmth and graciousness of Nantucket and its people during the bustling summer season. Friends and guests are welcomed with the open arms of a community who have perfected the fine art of hospitality and the ability to make everyone feel welcome and valued. We are, after all, in the tourism business, so it’s not a complete surprise that the island excels at taking special care of its visitors. It’s one of the many reasons people want to return again and again.

What is always heartwarming is to observe how our tight knit community behaves in the off-season… particularly when friends and neighbors are met with challenges, difficulties or even tragedy. This winter has seemed to bring an unusual onslaught of painful news to our little island. Children have lost their fight with illnesses. Friends are battling cancer or other life threatening illnesses. Car accidents, drug overdoses and the death of a local landscaper fill the pages of The Inquirer and Mirror. These struggles are likely no different than those in communities all across the country. But when you’re on a tiny island 30 miles out to sea, the challenges feel magnified. There’s only one way to face these difficulties – together.

When 20 year old Tasha Grosshans (the daughter of local caretaker Tina Crane) lost her battle with cancer last week, the community rallied. Hundreds of students, parents and local residents donned aqua (her favorite color) t-shirts and ribbons and gathered in several locations island wide to display their support of her family. When a young local boy was injured off island in a car accident a prayer vigil was held at the Methodist Church. For others with pressing needs, caring residents come together for yoga fests, fundraisers, meal deliveries, thoughtful gifts, financial assistance, support groups, prayer chains, social media campaigns and countless other creative efforts to help assure friends they are not in it alone.

If Dr.King could have posed his most persistent and urgent question to Nantucket…”What are you doing for others?”…the overwhelming response would have brought a smile to his face. In big ways and small, Nantucket takes care of its own…and it impacts not just those who are facing the difficulties but the thousands of people (residents and summer visitors alike) who are proud to be part of such a caring community. As a friend said recently when visiting the island, “I’m on Nantucket and that always makes me better.” How good it is to live in a place that makes us all better.

United we stand.

Shellie Dunlap

Shellie Dunlap1

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