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LETTERS / Think. Discuss. Act.

Dear Editor,

Do you know the sensation you have when something feels right? I mean, really feels right…you know because its visceral…you can tell that your body is reacting- your muscles may be tightening, your belly might be fluttering, your heart may feel like it is lifting out of your chest. I love when that happens because there is no doubt about it- your body is talking to you- telling you clear as day that what you are doing is right.

Over the past few weeks I have had the privilege of meeting with, of learning with, and of growing with a large group of people- many of whom I had never met before. We found ourselves- some quiet, some outspoken, some republican, some democrat, some men, some women- we found ourselves united behind a common vision. A vision that included, at its very core, putting people first- giving them the opportunity to grow up in, to live in, and to visit the safest, best Watauga County possible. That vision broke down the barriers between us- our commonality felt far more significant than any differences among us.

I know that I wasn’t the only one who felt it. We gathered to rally outside the courthouse, and I saw people in tears with smiles on their faces. A friend stopped me in the grocery store to tell me that she had never been involved in something like this. That, for the first time, she felt like she was part of a movement that was truly enacting a change in this county. The stories that I heard, from all kinds of people, were very similar. They, like me, had been pushed by this experience; they had been grown by this- in so many ways. And they triumphed. They dug deep and they found a strength in themselves and in our community that they didn’t know they had.

The people that I saw crying with smiles- they weren’t crying sad tears- no, they were crying because they were feeling it too- it was visceral. A community was gathering- people were joining their voices to demand what was right. Not just for a small handful of people with vested monetary interests, but for the majority of people in this county. The feeling was real. We felt it.

I think the commissioners felt it too. They saw us all there at 8:30 in the morning- they knew that they represented us…that they were us. When it comes down to it, we’re all in this together, and I think that when the commissioners voted to change Watauga County’s high impact land use ordinances to protect the people, they were saying that they heard us…that they spoke for us…that they would protect us. The feeling was contagious.

I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if the people hadn’t sounded the alarm- hadn’t risen up. In what direction would our county be heading? I am glad that it didn’t happen that way, but I am also keenly aware of the fact that it could have…easily.

I will admit that, while I have always showed up on election day, I have never before taken an active part in our political system. As a matter of fact, I have become jaded over the years. Seeing the interests of the people disregarded in favor of big money, time and again, has left me feeling disenfranchised with our government and the way that things seem to work.

But then this happened, and it was visceral for me and, I know, for many others involved. We felt the feeling of democracy in action. It took a movement of us- uniting together and raising our voices in unison to send a clear message, and we did. Isn’t that how democracy is supposed to be? Things did change. It worked, and I am a better person because of it.

I have come to realize what can happen when people choose what unites them over that which divides them. I saw and I felt what happens when people realize that they have had enough with sitting back and watching. They are done shaking their heads while decisions are made that put the profits of the few before the good of the many. I saw what happened when we stood in the common ground of what is clearly good for our children… good for our environment…good for ourselves.

So that leaves me wondering….what comes next? I don’t know about everyone else, but I saw it, I felt it… I was part of something that was bigger than just me or my family. It was bigger than the people of this county. It was the feeling of doing what was right. It was the feeling of standing together as a voice for a people that really needs one.

I’ve got the bug. I saw what happened. There was change, and it was because of us. If it happened here, in our home, I think it can happen everywhere. We need to speak up for ourselves before it is too late. Let’s keep sounding the alarm.

When something feels right, it’s in your body- you can’t ignore it. Thank you to all those people who stood there with me, who felt with me, who learned with me, who grew with me. Thank you to all the people in this community who joined, in some way to enact change together. Let’s not stop here.

Think. Discuss. Act.

Thank You.

Jessica Stetter
Deep Gap, N.C.