If you believe the old Christmas carol, this is “the most wonderful time of the year.” I believe that it is.
I love all things Christmas – the lights, the music, the food, the hustle-bustle of the holiday season and traditions passed down through families. Most of all, I love the promise that this season alone holds – that there is more good than evil in the world; that peace is possible, and that we are our brothers’ keeper.
This is the essence of the holiday season, but I see this manifested everyday in our community. The spirit of Christmas is alive and well in Cortez.
We are a small, rural community – our population just reached 9,000 – and by some measures, economically depressed. But I am amazed by the many ways we care for one another. Cortez has a large number of non-profits that provide a wide range of services to our community. Some of these are national in origin, such as Habitat for Humanity and United Way, but many have come about because members of our own community saw a need and stepped forward to fill it. Our local city government recognizes the valuable services that these organizations provide “that preserve or enrich the health, education, welfare and fitness of the community.” Every year the Cortez City Council budgets money to support community organizations who apply for competitive grants. This year 23 grants were awarded, totaling $31,035.
Cortez has a homeless shelter because local citizens were appalled that anyone should die in our city due to exposure during the cold winter months. Folks came together and founded The Bridge Emergency Shelter. In the past two years alone, 340 different people have stayed at The Bridge each year. In addition to a warm bed and hot meal, The Bridge has also helped a number of clients get back on their feet; they are now working steadily and can afford permanent housing. The Bridge was awarded a Colorado Department of Local Affairs grant this fall that, along with private donations and fee waivers from the City, will enable them to begin construction on a permanent home sometime next year, demonstrating the power of a vision that will soon result in the fulfillment of a dream.
Did you know that two churches in our community, St. Barnabas Episcopal Church (through Grace’s Kitchen) and the United Methodist Church (through Hope’s Kitchen) coordinate to provide a hot meal five days a week and a sack lunch on Saturdays to anyone who shows up for lunch? They will have served over 32,000 meals by year’s end, filling bellies while they also work to enrich souls!
Our small community supports a Community Thanksgiving Dinner and plans are underway for the Annual Community Christmas Dinner. Everyone is invited to these events, and they are another example of the way we exhibit our care for one another – no one should be alone or go hungry during the holidays.
A local Christmas tradition began several years ago with the Mancos Valley Choir’s Christmas concerts. They gave six this year. Having another commitment when they sang at Montezuma-Cortez High School, I attended the Saturday afternoon concert in Mancos. As always, it was a wonderful event and a real gift to those in the audience. The final number in this year’s concert was “Let There Be Peace on Earth.” If this song is not familiar, check it out on YouTube. It sums up the holiday season perfectly: “Let there peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”
We each have the opportunity to make a difference, if not on the world stage, then in our little corner of the world. Ghandi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
What better time to begin that change than during the present holiday season?
Karen Sheek is the mayor of Cortez, a position elected by Cortez City Council members. Reach her at [email protected] or during her office hours from 12:30 - 1:30 p.m. the second and fourth Tuesday of the month.