Anticipating city’s next chapter

Published 10:19 am Friday, October 31, 2008

As election fever takes hold across the country, and our national elections take center stage, Pelham’s newly elected officials take office. With our municipal election drama behind us, what awaits the city? Considering how close all of the races were, will half the city be unsatisfied and aggravated for the next four years? Will anger and defensiveness propel the city in the right direction? Change often generates more questions than answers.

Last night, my son asked me to read his essay about the novel he’s just read, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. He wrote about the judgments that alienated the main characters. And yet, judgment didn’t feel like the right word. “Maybe you mean discrimination,” I offered.

“No,” he said. “Discrimination isn’t the right word either. The word I’m looking for means the opposite of acceptance.”

My young man made a powerful observation. In the end, he decided to focus on what prevented acceptance. We agreed that a specific name for the lack of acceptance didn’t really matter. What matters in Lee’s storyline is that the town and many of its citizens suffer because the characters fail to work together and accept one another’s differences. My son asked me how to document a quote from the Bible and told me he was going to look for scripture to back up his thesis. He asked me if I knew in what book he’d find the passage about vengeance. I wished him luck, suggested some Web sites, and went to bed. I have already passed ninth grade.

In the morning, when I asked my son if he’d been successful in his scripture search, he replied, “Well, yeah, but I didn’t use the verse I thought I would. I went with ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself.’”

“Why?” I asked him.

“Because of what we talked about last night,” he said. “The real lesson of the book isn’t about the bad choices that some of the characters made. Atticus is the hero because he chooses acceptance. He chooses to do the right thing. What really matters is not focusing on the past, but looking forward towards what we might do better-how we could improve.”

I’ve lived in Pelham most of my life. Ultimately, the citizens of Pelham share a common goal. We want to see our city meet its challenges, prosper, and continue to improve. As a community, Pelham hungers for excellence. Who you voted for doesn’t really matter anymore. What matters most now is acceptance of the city’s new leadership and a continued commitment to being our very best. I hope that everyone will join me in wishing Mayor Murphy the very best in his new role –– and looking forward to Pelham’s next chapter.