Woog’s World / Westport: The town that cares
Published 3:53 pm, Wednesday, September 6, 2017
The signs at our borders say “Welcome to Westport.” They might as well add, “Town of Entitlement.”
Drivers zoom past stop signs, red lights, even school buses as quickly as they roar by those signs. They park horizontally in vertical parking spaces; hog handicapped spots, and treat fire line stripes as challenges to overcome. It’s a jungle out there, and Jeeps and Range Rovers are the vehicles of choice to prove who rules it. (Also BMWs, Audis, and every other conceivable vehicle.)
But there is another Westport. It might be called “The Town That Cares.” In the last week alone, we’ve seen local citizens like Adam Goldberg organized relief efforts for victims of Hurricane Harvey. Tomorrow (Saturday, Sept. 9, Imperial Avenue parking lot, 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.), he’s asked Westporters to donate non-perishable food items, cleaning materials, diapers and formula, clean blankets, soap, shampoo, school supplies, pet food, paper products and more (in marked boxes and bags). His company, Aquafence, will transport it all in a 30-foot truck.
Others leaped into action last week too. Suited.co offered 50 percent off to anyone who donated $100 to the Red Cross (and provided a laptop to make the donation extra-easy). Blues, Views & BBQ organizers donated proceeds of their cooking competition to relief efforts.
Closer to home, more Westporters were finding more ways to help their neighbors. When word got out that because of state budget cuts Wyatt Davis — a recent Staples graduate with cerebral palsy whose many accomplishments inspire all who know him — is in danger of losing care at STAR, the Fairfield County facility, teachers, friends and complete strangers donated funds.
Those are just a few examples of the hand local residents extend, near and far. (And yes, “Near and Far” is the name of a Fairfield County organization that raises, then distributes, millions of dollars in aid. It wouldn’t be possible without the volunteer efforts of dozens of Westporters, or the generosity of Mitchells for its annual fundraiser.)
Those are the kinds of helping hands that do us proud. And they count for far more than the middle fingers flashed on far too many other hands, attached to entitled Westporters who believe that because they’ve made it here to a home inside our borders, they can do anything they please.
Our two Westports are on display elsewhere in town too. We pride ourselves on our environmental awareness. We were the first town east of the Mississippi to ban plastic bags. We support Wakeman Town Farm — which we bought and saved from development — and are grateful for its educational programs, its emphasis on sustainability, and of course its produce.
However, we don’t always live our lives in the most environmentally friendly ways. We drive our kids to school, even though the bus passes right in front of our driveway. Or — if they take the bus — we drive them three houses down our private lane, then sit in the car waiting with them as the engine idles.
And speaking of houses: Many people moved to Westport because — as a real estate agent showed them the town — they were intrigued by what they saw. They loved our stone walls, old homes and many trees. But they also loved the opportunity to build the biggest home they could possibly fit on the property they loved. So they tore down houses that were too small, too old, too whatever. They cut down every tree in the way. They leveled land. They changed the streetscape — and the landscape that had been here long before there was a “Westport.”
Another Westport attraction is our schools. We are justifiably proud of them, and of the men and women who teach and run them. We point to the town’s emphasis on the four “A”s — academics, arts, athletics and activities — and pat ourselves on the back for the accomplishments of our students. We celebrate our young musicians, soccer players and robotics team members.
But sometimes we demand that each child be all of those things. We want them to pursue every activity under the sun, and succeed at them all brilliantly. At the same time we demand that they earn high grades in the classroom, and on standardized tests. If — on one metric, or in one very unscientific poll — Westport slips from Number Two to Number Three in the state, we ask worriedly what is wrong. And we demand accountability.
There are many more examples of the two Westporters: our talk of our arts heritage, but disinterest in the Westport Country Playhouse. Our respect for our police officers and firefighters, yet unwillingness to listen to their concerns about changes to their pensions.
“Welcome to Westport” indeed. Which town have you arrived at?