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The Valley Reporter
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Waitsfield, VT 05673
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How did we get here?

By Neil Johnson

It's an interesting time we live in. Heavily scrutinized murder cases take less time, have less acrimony and are far less stressful than our town has taken in choosing a town office site; a murder trial is easier than passing health care reform, immigration reform, union contracts, house foreclosures, short sales, and small claims court, real estate transactions, getting local permits for business, federal budgets and the list goes on. How did we get here?

How on earth is Waitsfield leading Washington in gridlock? We have really good local people working on our town office issue. I know these people personally; we all do, so we know we're dealing with good people. These people are our friends for crying out loud, so what is going on? Many of us unwittingly fall into a trap when representing our clients, in good faith, as that's what we're supposed to do.

However, it's clear we've out-legalized the legal system when our everyday wheels are turning slower than the wheels of justice. People want to make sure they have their rights. Groups want to have their constituents represented. We unwittingly become part of the legalese and battle about for our selfish needs and desires, without concern for the other party; it's a common theme.

This is all done in the spirit of their clients, their needs. But it begs more questions. I ask, are we fair? Are we selfish? Do we love our money a bit too much? Where is our heart? Have we forgotten fair play? Is our current sporting world a reflection of fair play in society now? Is Lance Armstrong but an example of what we'll all willing to do for victory? Perhaps we should become the athlete with more heart, the nation, town with more heart and less rules of law.

We see this in our profession every day; it seems we have battle royals about buying a house, negotiating every last detail. Our contracts went from one page to six; we've had battles about prorating the fuel in a tank of gas for God's sake! It's becoming prevalent in all business, in everyday life.

But it's about their needs, which can be a short step to selfishness. Legalese and selfishness, this isn't something new; it's been going on since the pharaohs of Egypt ruled, Roman emperors and beyond. It's the fall of many great nations, religions, real estate deals, union contracts, marriages; this is another long list. To change we have to get back to the matter of heart.

When we love our neighbor as ourselves, we show them respect. We listen to their needs and questions; negotiations work and solutions are found. When our heart is involved, we often find a third solution that works better than either side thought of on their own. If we think, listen and have our heart in the right place, things can get done.

Having the money to build a new town office shouldn't be more stressful than a murder trial. Honestly, when watching a murder trial is less stressful, a faster process and relaxing when comparing our decision of what our next town office will be, we have to question ourselves. If we open our hearts, we can enjoy our neighbors, coworkers, townspeople. If we open our hearts, getting the new town office can actually be an enjoyable experience, same for buying a house. I hope are hearts are not so hard we can't change.

Johnson lives in Waitsfield.

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