Friday, December 17, 2010
Stepping up to the plate
When Ben Benfield died this past week, Carlisle lost one of its most transformative and important figures in our town’s history. Fortunately, Carlisleans will have reason to celebrate Ben’s amazing life for generations to come due to the many ways in which he left Carlisle a much better community. Indeed, he serves as a role model for anyone who wants to make a difference in Carlisle.
One of Ben’s most pivotal accomplishments was to have the extraordinary vision, commitment, drive and generosity to help conserve so many critical pieces of land in our town. Among his many contributions, he was instrumental in co-founding the Carlisle Conservation Foundation and was a longtime chair of the Carlisle Conservation Commission. Ben was also well ahead of his time in recognizing the benefits of leveraging state agencies to fund important conservation purchases.
Combining his effective networking and creative approach to assembling conservation lands, Ben played a direct role in protecting over 1,700 acres in Carlisle. In addition, he placed permanent conservation restrictions on more than 133 acres of his own land in the western part of town. Incredibly, due in large part to Ben’s efforts, over one-third of Carlisle now consists of permanently protected conservation land.
As was highlighted in last week’s article by Susan Emmons, Ben was also largely responsible for having the natural gas transmission line owned by the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company routed along the periphery of Carlisle rather than cutting through the heart of our town.
Appropriately called “The Father of Carlisle Conservation,” Ben received both the Carlisle Honored Citizen and Carlisle Conservationist of the Year awards.
While Carlisle may never see another figure as transformative as Ben Benfield, all residents have the potential to serve our town in important ways. Generous residents can and do benefit Carlisle in any number of ways, but primarily by donating their time, talent and money to civic, athletic and other volunteer endeavors.
Sometimes, residents can achieve an outsized impact by creatively combining their generosity with an advantageous resource. As was publicized in last week’s issue, Randy Laughlin recently donated $2,393 to the Carlisle Public Schools. By taking advantage of a matching program at Microsoft, his employer, Randy was able to leverage his own donation to provide the school with a much appreciated computer software gift, one with a retail value exceeding $50,000. Perhaps Randy’s and Microsoft’s generous donations will serve as an inspiration for others to see what their employers might offer town organizations by way of matching gift programs.
The bottom line is that Carlisle is a small enough town that anyone who really wants to can certainly make a big difference here. Once you identify something you really care about in Carlisle, figure out how you’d like to contribute and then go ahead and implement that vision to the best of your ability.
Providing funding is certainly one viable way to impact Carlisle. But contributing one’s time and talent can be every bit as valuable and influential. In addition, even though some individuals may not have either funds or time available currently, they can still make a significant impact by designating funds or property via an estate plan. Finally, even if you’re unsure about which specific organization to preference, you can always contribute to a local umbrella organization such as the Concord-Carlisle Community Chest.
Carlisle is a significantly better community because of Ben Benfield. Although perhaps on a different scale, all of us can make a difference in Carlisle too. Let’s step up to the plate – there are a lot of worthy causes that could use our assistance!
The first Christmas card I received this month was from a family who moved from the parish last year. It was a simple card – a winter scene of trees with snow on the ground and a burst of sun shining through the trees. The message on the front of the card was “Hope shines through the season.”
Hope is a quality we all need in our lives. The opposite of hope is sadness and even despair. Recently I have been saddened to read of tragedies in the lives of people who seem to have lost hope. Close to home our sheriff, James DiPaola took his own life. As I read comments from his friends and co-workers I saw a man larger than life, who reached out to help prison inmates to rehabilitate by learning a new trade. Yet he was a man facing problems who lost hope. There are many other sad stories as well. A 15-year-old student threatens his classmates and then kills himself. Domestic violence continues as husbands take their lives and the lives of their wives and children. These stories sadden all of us, but they also remind us of the need of hope in our lives.
In our church, we are now celebrating the season of Advent, the advent, the coming of Jesus Christ on Christmas day. Advent is a time of hope as we remember the centuries of waiting and longing in the Old Testament for the coming of the Messiah. The Messiah was the promised one of God. Through the centuries the prophets of Israel promised a Savior, a Messiah who would bring justice and peace and healing to the world. As Christians, we believe that the promise was fulfilled in Jesus Christ whose coming we celebrate at Christmas. He comes to bring hope to all of us. It is a hope that we can rise above our human weakness, a hope that we can be all that God calls us to be, a hope that life does not end in death, but continues in a richer and fuller life hereafter.
This season of the year embraces the celebration of many different faiths. How good it is to be alive. How good it is to gather with family and friends to celebrate our beliefs and our traditions, to renew those special bonds of love and friendship that keep us together. And we are all members of a larger family. We all share in many values. In our Christmas celebrations we hope and pray that the promises made long ago will one day be fulfilled – that there will come a time of peace, a time of justice, a time of brotherhood and love among all people. Let all of us take time in this busy season to savor and enjoy each day. May we bring joy and happiness to those we love. May we bring kindness and assistance to those in need. May the joy and peace of this season of the year be ours in abundance and help us to live each day in hope.
© 2010 The