Where Everybody Knows Your Name

When we began our Adventure (August 2021) from New York to Montana we stopped in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Minnesota, Michigan, Indiana, the Dakotas and Wyoming. When we took the second and longer leg (February – August 2022), we added Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, the Carolinas, Tennessee, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts to our list. Throughout that time, we wondered and wrote about what makes a great place to live?

As I wrote yesterday, the conclusion we came to is that we prefer small, unpretentious towns near mountains, lakes and rivers. Today, I’d add “community” to that list. We’re looking for a place where everybody knows your name (thank you “Cheers”).

Jeffersonville, NY

Today we attended a superintendent’s conference with Gary and Judy Siegel. The goal was to introduce the administrators to Siegel’s STEAM fund, a non-profit that supports artists and children in Sullivan County. The Siegels are representing our arts in education company, Beth & Scott and Friends, in this area.

The advantage of working with Gary and Judy is that everyone in Sullivan County seems to know their names. As a longtime multigenerational family member and former music teacher, everywhere we go someone recognizes Gary. Whether it’s a former student, a fellow teacher, a member of his temple, or a fellow Rotarian, they all seem to know him by name or reputation. Judy, for her part, has four businesses one of which is a realtor, so she’s no slouch in the friends and networking department, either.

More importantly, the Siegels are good people and we have become close friends with them and their friends through the John Lennon Real Love Project and Theatre Within on whose board, Gary sits. We are all rowing in the same direction – to help kids and provide opportunities to spread messages like John Lennon’s (peace, equality and love). And, like Lennon, we’re also looking to have fun as we do our life’s work.

Here in the Catskills, there’s already a strong and growing community in place. The residents, shopkeepers, arts center directors, teachers and other government employees have been seeding this area with love and attention for a long time. The Siegels have been pursuing us to move here – not just because they like us – but because there’s opportunity here to make an impact.

The southern view outside our window

Together, we are joining hands to help a large imigrant population where 75% of the children are on a free lunch program, where many still don’t have internet or know the language. In our experience, these are the kids and families that NEED the joy, togetherness and understanding that the Arts can deliver. IMHO, they are the ones that appreciate it the most.

Should Beth and I want to stay in one place (instead of going mobile again), this is the kind of community where we want to spend our lives – a community that needs us like we need them, a place where it feels right to plant new roots.

To be fair, we could have tried this out in many of the places we visited. Here makes more sense because if it’s proximity to family, friends and clients. (And it’s not overpriced.)

Wherever we’ve traveled, we’ve learned that the work goes better with laughter, music and good talks. We’ve learned that hanging with Gary and Judy, Sue, Max, Georgia, Barbara K., Marty, Don, Helene, Bill, Anne E., Steph, Helen, Blake, Sharon, Bixby, Holly, Teresa, Samantha, Hannah, Joe, Lisa, Jeff R., Keith T., Barbara S. ,Kevin S, Cat, Paul, Sandi, Noel, Judy, Lee, Linda, Giles, Bridget, Gary R., Nina, Melissa, Jeff S., Mare, Ray, Cait, Nancy H., Gerry, Jim, Pat, Leah, Chris, Emerson, Charlotte, Nancy, Joel, Dave, Ann, Pam, Steve, Tracey, Steve, Sue, Kevin, Steven R., Eric, Adam, Alan, Frana, Claudia, Bill, Jen, Mike, Bob, Linda, Tom, Louise, Mark or Mary and many others for a few days to see that. These folks are proof that community and friendship are where it’s at for us. (A special shout out to our online friends, Threshold Choirs, yogis and fellow music makers, too!)

Even during the cold months that will come soon enough, there are lots of community activities in Sullivan County. The folks here don’t sit on the couch and watch the ballgame on TV. They go to it. The folks here don’t fondly remember the days of yore when neighbor helped neighbor – they do it every day. Even after only 30 days, I”m finding myself getting to know the local mechanic, buying groceries at a Farmer’s Market or spending my money at the local shop where the owner is trying to get a new business started. It’s something I never thought I’d find, again, and I’m glad to know that America still has at its heart, that small town vibe.

Beth, Cat and Kevin
Keith and Barbara

Scott, Joe, Lisa, Beth and Brad

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