It's been a year . . . for any who might have been counting . . . since I announced here that I was retiring after three decades of work at Lakewood City Hall.And it's almost a year to the day that I didn't retire. That first attempt didn't stick. This retirement - the one that begins October 1 - will stick. On September 30, I'll thank those with whom I worked and I'll say a few words about what I think it has all meant.
A year ago, I tried to put those words together for the first time. And I'm still struggling to articulate what I know and feel.
For almost 34 years, my work focused on making and sustaining a sense of mutual responsibility for the ethnically diverse, mostly working-class community in which I live. In my fallible way, I've tried to show Lakewood residents that there are reasons to be loyal to the place we call home.
While I've often written about a "sense of place," loyalty is a greater value, dependent on a "sense of place" but requiring a deeper understanding - what Alfred Kazin memorably called "an insistence to know." Kazin, commenting on the authors who wrote about America during the Great Depression of the 1930s, thought that their "insistence to know" led them to fall in love with the America they found.
"Falling in love" with what you already have is one way I've defined loyalty.
As I've tried to practice it, loyalty's expression has been a pragmatic sociability - a habit of everyday give and take across political, religious, gender, ethnic, and racial boundaries the purpose of which is the making of a moral imagination.
Laid bare, that's the sum of my years as a local government bureaucrat - a moral imagination, one that is wide enough to encircle this specific place and, just perhaps, to encompass that part of the American experience which is life in a working-class suburb.
The photograph on this page is from the author's collection.em>