Don’t do it just because you’ve always done it
During the last several years, I’ve noticed that the town’s highway department received a new name: the Public Works Department. I also noticed that the trucks from that department are slowly changing color, from red, which was the predominant color for decades at the old Hammonton Highway Department, to white.
At the police department, the police cars used to be white, then blue and white. They also used to be cars. Now, there are many black SUVs.
I note these shifts to you because they bothered me at first, because I think of myself as a traditionalist. Having lived in Hammonton most of my life, I tend to be used to having things a certain way.
And yet, I’ve accepted these changes, and many others large and small during the last several decades. Hammonton isn’t immune to change, even though we have seemed to hold on to the way we do things a lot longer than other places have.
Obvious changes to the landscape include a new town hall, a revitalized downtown, a renewed uptown, a new high school, a new Hammonton Early Childhood Center, revitalized middle school and elementary school buildings, the construction of the new Canoe Club building at Hammonton Lake Park, and upgrades to the Hammonton Business Park, Hammonton’s Little Italy and the Hammonton Municipal Airport.
All that change occurred during the last 25 years. You can look up the dates of all the projects, but nearly all of them have occurred during the last quarter century.
I submit that the progress that has occurred during that time, and continues to occur, has happened not because people abandoned tradition. Instead, they kept the best of what the town was while becoming more flexible and willing to accept change.
Also good: They refused—and still refuse—to accept negative changes.
In previous decades, the embrace of the status quo led us to stagnation. Decades ago, I wrote in this space that the town motto should have been “Whaddya gonna do?” That was the stock answer to any challenge or problem facing this community. Consequently, challenges were not faced and problems were not solved.
It’s important at times to reflect on that era of stagnation in Hammonton. It’s hard to believe it persisted for so long. It’s not a new situation. People continued to do things because they had always done them that way.
It reminds me of the story of the woman who cut off the ends of her pot roast.
She was in her kitchen, cutting off the ends of her pot roast before she placed it in a large pan. Her daughter asked her, “Mom, why do you always cut off the ends of the pot roast before you put it in the pan?” She said she didn’t know, but that her mother had always done it. Fortunately, her mother was at the kitchen table. They asked her why she always cut off the ends of the pot roast.
“I don’t know. My mother always did it,” she said.
Fortunately, longevity ran in the family, and the grandmother’s mother was sitting next to her at the kitchen table. She was asked why she always cut off the ends of the pot roast before she put it in the pan.
“Well, during the Great Depression, I couldn’t afford a large pan. So I always cut them off,” she said, laughing.
The point is: Blind acceptance and allegiance isn’t good. Ask questions about why something is being done, and don’t just go along to get along.
It’s fine to be flexible, because many times it’s better to bend than to break.
But having flexibility doesn’t have to mean you have to give up your individuality.
I’ll miss the red trucks.
That doesn’t have to mean I dislike the new white ones.
Gabriel J. Donio is the publisher of The Hammonton Gazette.