What does it take to persist in the face of difficult circumstance, bounce back from a setback, or recover from a major blow? How did someone like Greg Lemond win Le Tour de France after he was shot? How do abused children become functional and contributing adults? How do communities recover from natural disasters or civic trauma? How does a landscape and ecosystem like Yellowstone recover from massive overgrazing?


Given the current stress and anxiety, name-calling and distrust, and anger about the Toll Brothers development in Ferguson Township, it would do us all some good to be mindful of resilience. Maybe we can even think about how the current sturm und drang is serving our health.

The APA writes, “Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors. It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences.” Note that it’s a process. It takes time. It also requires pain and stress. But it’s about the lessons we learn and the strategies we adopt to deal with stresses and adapt to the conditions of our lives. In a way, resilience might be a stance we take so that we can not only persist, but thrive.

The local community is under stress. Growth. Development. Competing interests with no conversation. Prisoner’s dilemmas. Laws stacked in the favor of private interests that might be at the expense of the commons. All of it leading to a sort of cancerous anger, resentment, fear, and distrust. Some of that anger is necessary and we have to work through it. In fact, I think it’s our duty. But I’m a fiery person used to working through my own anger.

There’s also a strong network of engaged community members, people working in good faith from local government, press, non-profit, business, the university, schools, and as independent citizens. It’s remarkable how much people are engaged on an issue of land development, source water protection, transparency, and community future.

Anger and a commitment to a better community are not mutually exclusive. Panglossian rose-tinted positivity and cancerous anger are. Neither is viable. Both impede our growth as a community.

As our situation evolves, you and I have the opportunity to learn and grow from this. By grow, I don’t mean metastasize or sprawl. I mean that we can become a more thoughtful and deliberative community. Are you committed to bouncing back and making us better?

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