To the Editor:
I write this letter from my new home in my adopted country of Mexico.
As the dramatic events unfolded last month, and before the Vineyard’s response was known to the world, I said to my expat neighbor Ann, “These refugees are fortunate to have been unceremoniously and callously dumped on Martha’s Vineyard; they will be well taken care of.”
Martha’s Vineyard, you did not disappoint me.
My neighbor was surprised that I instantly rushed to this conclusion, but I had not one iota of doubt that these migrants would be welcomed with open arms, food, and temporary shelter, and the compassion that we (yes, I will always consider myself a Vineyarder) possess an abundance of.
And even though there are many ways I have been disappointed by the heartbreaking changes on the Island in the past 20 years, the majority of people, especially the year-round population, are some of the finest human beings I have known or will ever know.
I had lunch the other day with a hope-to-be new friend. She and her husband had lived on the Vineyard for 17 years. I took an instant liking to her, and felt a bond that I feel no need to explain to you Vineyard folks. When we current or once-upon-a-time Vineyarders are out of context, meaning not physically on the Island, our commonalities seem more evident. It’s a positive thing, and something I have only recently discovered since living in Mexico and meeting Americans from all over the States, including more than a few from the Vineyard.
I think that part of what we witnessed come into play last month was the Island’s history of acceptance; from the Wampanoag’s embrace of the white man — and the Black man, for that matter — to our modern-day integration of the Brazilians, Irish, and the young men and women of the Balkans. This took time, mind you, but I feel the eventual acceptance of people from many nations contributed to the outpouring of kindness the residents of Martha’s Vineyard demonstrated to the cynical world we live in today.
Another reason I believe Islanders get along so well, differences be damned, is simply because everyone knows it takes a village to run at the fast, furious summer season that the Vineyard experiences year after year. It’s the one thing I am personally acquainted with, and therefore know: in order to be successful; success requires teamwork — a three-months-long all- hands-on-deck, regardless of nationality or color, teamwork.
And the Island’s generosity of spirit I saw from afar, the spontaneous coming together to care for these innocent people in need, came across as natural and authentic, characteristics I know the Vineyard community to exemplify. There was no hesitation, no political shenanigans, none, not for one second. How unique and refreshing in these times.
I have at last come to terms with the lingering homesickness I have felt now for a year. I have accepted that Martha’s Vineyard will always be home in my heart, and because of the recent news, this longing was once again at the forefront of my mind and spirit in a way I had yet to know or feel. The anguish that I (and I am not alone) experience sometimes toward the Island just melted away, and the fabulous Island of the past, the Martha’s Vineyard I once knew, revealed its former self again.
Hello, my old friend, I have missed you!
Here’s to you kind people whom I will always love. I could not be prouder of the Island, my Island and dear home of 41 unforgettable years. See you next summer!