Two things to think about as the new year begins.

THING #1: We like our image as a tight-knit community, the place where everybody knows your name, including the barista at Starbucks.

Question: Are we really tight-knit or do we miss a stitch from time to time allowing the marginalized folks amongst us slip through the snags?

Perhaps you saw the blotter item a few weeks ago about an older woman, a shut-in living alone and suffering the challenges of life in the margins.

At least one person knew she existed and called police to ask that someone check on her. This was nothing new for police. She has called them a time or two when the outside world seemed to be conspiring against her.

This time, it was our police chief and the lieutenant who took the call and made a visit. The woman told them she had not eaten and had no way of ordering groceries because she did not have a phone.

The top cops snapped into action and with their own money bought her food. The lieutenant cooked her dinner and the chief bought her a pay-as-you-go cell phone.

It had all the plotlines for a Lifetime movie. Unfortunately, it really happened right here in tight-knit Chagrin Falls.

We found later that the woman is not poor or ill enough to qualify for other forms of assistance. This is where family generally steps in to take over, but there appears to be no one present in her life. What will become of her?

Flash back a couple of decades ago when Art Newman owned the Cameo Gift Shop on Main Street. I don’t think he would mind if I mentioned he was an eccentric in the best possible way; funny and free of preconceived notions, at least as I read him.

Art had quite a following of older ladies, not too much older than himself. They would gather in the shop or his apartment upstairs and conduct a kind of salon for senior citizens with a little gossip thrown in for good measure.

Together, Art and his salon devised their own social service organization they called The Life of Chagrin referred to as LOC. It was a secret society, and its charitable work was never discussed outside the salon, something like “Fight Club” but gentler.

When it came to their attention that someone in town was going through a rough patch, Art and his friends would help with an anonymous donation and maybe other forms of assistance. We know so little about this uniquely special philanthropic group.

The point is this: Does our close knit community need a back-up group like LOC again? A non-bureaucratic source of financial goodwill that can be accessed quickly when the dropped stitch and human need arises?

THING # 2: It is only natural to avoid putting ourselves out there when we have a complaint, criticism or suggestion about a beloved all-volunteer hometown tradition.

Who wants to be viewed as outrageous, ungrateful or inappropriate? It’s a small town and everyone knows everybody else, so it is best not to put the above mentioned character flaws on display.

Bolder folks can and do air their grievances in the letters to the editor, but the ones who fear public shunning will seek someone else to grind their axe for them. Enter the local newspaper and its editorial page writers.

Our dear friend Joan Brandon, the former caretaker of this space, used to say, “Readers are happy to load the gun; they just want me to shoot it.” She often obliged.

This time the object of disgruntled ones’ disaffection is this year’s downtown holiday lighting display and the Chagrin Valley Jaycees who make it happen.

Clutch your pearls ladies because Critic #1 drew attention to the pole tree lights which, in some cases, missed the tree altogether while others were sloppily done. It’s a guy thing. Men apparently have no eye for detail or design.

The suggestion for solving this is to divide the village into sectors and assign a wife to oversee the trees and lights in that area. The women will observe the process until she is satisfied each tree is properly put together. Bullhorns will be assigned to each woman.

The second suggestion for the Jaycees was to return to the way they once conducted the lighting ceremony which was once the Jaycee version of “shock and awe.”

The centerpiece tree in Triangle needs more pizzazz, said Critic #2. For a true “WOW” factor, darken all the other Christmas lights until after the big tree is lighted. Then turn the rest on simultaneously. Then stand back and experience the sound of gratitude.

A veteran reporter and columnist, Barbara Christian has been covering Chagrin Falls since 1967 and is currently responsible for Chagrin Falls village events, government and school board news along with her weekly column "Window on Main Street."

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