Today was the penultimate day of the 19 Days of Norwich and Beyond. Over the past 18 days -- it feels funny to write "18 days" -- we have seen a lot of activity here in the Upper Valley.
- The temperature outside had a range of 55 degrees. Look at the photo and think what you feel with an extra 55 degrees versus what you feel at -7. You're more than halfway to "Oh my goodness, it's so hot!" With a foot of snow last week, autumn gave up its last grasp on the area, and Old Man Winter assumed his dominant role, which he apparently intends to hold for the next 100 days. (Maybe we should experiment with the 19 Days of Winter next year? Just sayin'...)
- Beauticians who dressed up in Charlie Brown-themed costumes and raised north of $30,000 in charitable donations. That is not a typo: north of $30,000 in one day.
- A petting zoo that welcomed kids and their keepers to see Animalia in an up-close, hands-on manner.
- A grilled cheese sandwich that caused one young connoisseur to exclaim, "I was expecting it to be on hard bread, but this bread is so soft. Awesome."
- A pet contest that pits cats against dogs and pigs against, well, other pigs.
- A lady wearing a soup can costume, encouraging Upper Valley folks to come inside a church for a bowl of hot tomato soup.
- Tuna fish at a realtor's office. Canned fruit at a bank. Cereal at the library. Peanut butter at the town hall. Jelly at the bookstore.
- Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Chianti, and Pinot noir on a Wednesday night.
- Angels and an elf on the bridge, around town, in stores, spreading good cheer and good vibes.
- White River Junction bringing the goods to the holiday season.
- Lyme and Hanover, too! (It's 19 days of Norwich AND BEYOND.)
- An auction that sells someone's homemade carrot cake. Which gets multiple bids.
- A pancake breakfast to redefine the genre: Santa, syrup, smiles.
- Boy Scouts spending their weekend conducting a food drive.
- Little yellow signs, t-shirts, and banners popping up all over the area, proudly proclaiming participation in the 19 Days.
- A canned good drive at the local historical society, showing that history and today can coexist.
- Laughter, kindness, sacrifice, generosity, and community at their best.
- Impeccable use of the word "penultimate."
OK, #18 was just for fun, but the others have something in common. Look back at #1. Think about how much more complicated your life has become over the past 18 days: bundling up to go outside is an ordeal. Your ice scraper and snow shovels are in overdrive. Your ash can next to the wood stove keeps filling up. Slush has invaded your home. Your lights are on at 4:30pm...and it's still not the shortest day of the year. Have you done the pajama shuffle to your car to start it so it is toasty when you get in 20 minutes later?
Now, look at #2-17. All those things are what people in the Upper Valley have done to help our neighbors and fellow area residents who may not have a warm place to spend the night, or food for their table. All those things were organized to help those people. Suddenly, the thought of someone finding warmth or nourishment because of the efforts of our shared community makes -7 degrees not feel so cold in the Upper Valley.
Tomorrow, we go to where all that generosity ends up: The Haven.