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Uncommon Ground

Kind and Good

From numerous school boards to hundreds of non-profit organizations to countless local governing boards, people who volunteer time make lives better

By Mike Jopek

Let’s hear it for volunteers, the people who make Montana better. Most every local who lives in the Flathead is grateful for the people working to keep the place we call home livable. It’s little wonder why so many tourists visit. Locals built a great place to live over the many decades of volunteerism and service.

It’s no accident. The Flathead has a long history of people working to make it better, providing opportunity to this and future generations of locals. Our time short. Life fleeting. We’re caretakers of place, seeking better.

Nowhere else on the planet is living relatively this good. It’s startling to view a world filled with war and famine. I’m grateful for the good we have living in rural Montana.

The kindness and decency that local city councilors routinely exhibit is noteworthy. These volunteers are the front line of how we grow as a community. Local politicians make careful decisions on what’s important and where our taxes are spent. They listen, then act. It’s the tiring, selfless work that keeps democracy strong.

Volunteers and generosity built the soccer fields and public trails, expanded libraries, music schools and aquatic centers. Kind people brought several performing arts centers to the valley. Donations built a nursing school and multiple skate parks. People build community.

From numerous school boards to hundreds of non-profit organizations to countless local governing boards, people who volunteer time make lives better. We’re in this together and locals know it. The dividers and demagogues should give us a break. Their way or the highway is no way to live. Any yoga teacher might say, breathe in some love and spiral your heart.

Historian Marc C. Johnson recently wrote what former Montana Senator Mike Mansfield said in 1995 that our nation “belongs … not to one of us, or to one generation, but to all of us and to all generations.”

Johnson says that Mansfield’s approach to leadership, as well as his capacity for decency and empathy, are characteristics that retain his legacy decades after retiring from the U.S. Senate.

We’ve got a long way to go to live up to ideals. I’m glad you’re helping. It’s people like you who make it such a great place. I thank you.

Let’s hear it for volunteers who freely give time for parks, the food pantries, the kids programs, or the homeless centers. Give thanks to housing advocates, the locals donating time to build homes for others, and the people helping refugees find a little safety.

Together the Flathead builds and maintains good access to the outdoors. Our public schools are great because the leaders we elect, as Mansfield still illustrates today, are decent people seeking the betterment of all families, not just the few, or the select.

We’re lucky. We live and work in a place where the full glory of nature visibly dominates the skylines and ridgelines. The people who occupy this land during our generation routinely exhibit kindness and decency toward others.

It’s the season of festive cheer in the kitchens and living rooms across the valley. Take time to appreciate. What we have is special. Keep volunteering. Get active. You can do it. This home is the only one we have. Most of us are willing to sacrifice a little to keep it a livable place for the next generation.

Thank the thousands of people who gave time and resources to help others and make today’s valley a better place to live, work and recreate. We live in the best place on the planet. Years of volunteerism, by generations before and current, worked hard to make it so. Be kind this season and do your part to keep our good valley open, united “with liberty and justice for all.”

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