‘What Makes Us A Community’ – Sunita Jaffrey

May 19, 2020

Community is something on everyone’s minds these days and never has it felt more important to our lives and our well-being than during a crisis like Covid19. Despite social distancing, there is a place where community thrives and my family and I were fortunate to find it twelve years ago.

When we first moved to New Vernon in 2007, we received an invitation to dinner hosted by my (now dear) neighbor to introduce us to other families living nearby. The hospitality and warm welcome we received from those who gathered that evening, for the purpose of getting to know us and to share a meal together, genuinely surprised me, but exemplifies the kind of community that resides here. They greeted us with open arms, volunteering help if needed and offering kind advice with warm smiles. This warmth was on display at our then small library (thank you Lotte!), the tax collection office, our local bank, the buildings department and the post office. Who were these people, I wondered? Did folks like this really exist?

Having lived in NY for most of our lives and several years in Madison prior to our move here, New Vernon feels like a world apart. Its rural, scenic landscape is matched by a small “town” where the people who inhabit it genuinely care for each other. Here, I found race, religion, ethnicity and political affiliation do not matter. My family was embraced into a community that sought only to look out for us. When the electricity went out in our early days due to a winter storm and our carbon monoxide alarms went off at 1am, the retired fire chief and police were at our door almost immediately with patient smiles and words of reassurance, without a trace of annoyance. Packages left too long at my doorstep are immediately noticed by neighbors who offer to hold them for me if needed. When a family in our neighborhood suffers a loss or hardship, we share their sorrow, and in times of celebration, we feel their joy. Whether there is a real emergency or not, our police respond immediately and are always understanding in carrying out their duties. On walks, we are greeted by neighbors and exchange stories in our daily lives. This community, from police officers to librarians and neighbors, have watched over my children as they have grown, and I appreciate them all for it. It reaffirms my hope that we can truly be our best selves by simply being good to one another.

At a time when we are all counting our blessings, I count myself as fortunate to live here, among these people, who value humanity and kindness above all else. For me, this makes New Vernon truly my home.