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Taking It Personally: Rolling With the Punches (PHOTOS)

Watching Lexington right itself after the October Storm makes one think of something Muhammad Ali once said: “If you haven't learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven't learned anything."

When the recent storm surprised us with not much snow, but a lot of damage, there were some obvious first steps.

With six out of nine schools either completely dark or on emergency power and with access to several schools seriously impaired, closure was obvious. The need to delay trick-or-treating was another obvious measure given the number of homes without power, street lights dark, trees blocking the roads and sidewalks, and the very real possibility that there might be live wires buried in the debris. 

A shelter was opened at the , where people without power could get something to eat and warm up a bit.

was open and served as another .

Town government started the cleanup that is estimated will .

But government can do only so much. I think most realize that a great deal of what happens in Lexington is done by volunteers.

The work of the is everywhere, from the flowers at the base of the Captain Parker statue to the many traffic islands in town. The Minute Men and the Tenth Regiment of Foot,the Historical Society, the Friends of Cary Library.  The benches and flowers outside the , where I often wait for the bus. The fall harvest displays outside the and .  The flower boxes at . A complete list would take many pages.

The storm once again reminded me of that volunteer spirit that is part of Lexington. Sure, we all . We wanted NStar to wave a wand and make it all better and we wanted the town to personally visit our property and take away all the debris, but at least deep down we knew that was wishful thinking.

What I saw were people filling the gaps, which always occurs when something unexpected happens.

Mary Ellen Dunn, assistant superintendent of schools for finance, arranged for somebody to come in and make sandwiches at the shelter.  Charlotte Rodgers, director of human services, dealt with the new cases which turned up because of the storm. Staff and volunteers showed up to help even though they had problems at home.

And I saw acts of kindness that mean so much to people. Even with power on at home, Beverly Kelley came down to help at the shelter. I came across her sitting with a person who lives alone and was feeling a bit lost. Tim Coughlin and Ita Dennehy took in an elderly neighbor who had no power. People pitched in to help neighbors clear away debris.

The Boy Scouts of Troop 160 had reserved this past weekend for their annual Cook-O-Ree, in which they go out into the woods of Acton, camp overnight and use open-air ovens to prepare a turkey dinner for around 100 people.  Unfortunately, with the woods deemed unsafe, Acton pulled their permit to use the woods, so it looked like the event would have to be canceled.

Being outdoors is a big part of being a Boy Scout, but so is leadership and so is community involvement. Out of those grew a project called Do A Good Turn for Lexington. They decided to take on a big cleanup project as that Good Turn and skip the camping trip for now.

So last Saturday, led by Cole Oshiro-Leavitt, the senior patrol leader, and using a plan prepared not by adults but by the youth leaders of the troop with advice from the Bike Committee and the DPW, just about everybody in the troop along with Boy Scouts from Troop 119, Venture Scouts from Crew 160, Cub Scouts from the three packs in town and some friends like Joel Adler and Andy Friedlich, both Town Meeting Members, came out to clean the from Arlington to Bedford.

There were 92 of them, so they finished in time to turn their attention to the path between and , where the down trees and limbs were even thicker than on the Bikeway.

All during the day they were joined by other people, who saw what was going on and pitched in. It was an impressive sight. There was a shortage of hard hats, safety glasses, and work gloves, but it turns out that Ellen Smith, the COO of National Grid, lives in Lexington and often runs on the Bikeway, so a couple of cases of those necessary items showed up at the sign-in table just in time.

And then the Scouts went back to the parking lot of , where they had their traditional Cook-O-Ree feast, mostly cooked outdoors. It wasn’t the woods of Acton, but the combination of service and hard work made it a memorable meal.

A letter to the troop from a passerby says it all:

“It brought back fond memories of our own scouting experience of community service. Your efforts surely not only cleared the path that day, but (did much) for each boy's future and strength of community.”

I would say that applies to everybody who helps everywhere. Each of us can do only so much and sometimes it seems like a very small contribution, but the total of all those contributions is what gives us Lexington.

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