Part-time Residents with Fulltime Purpose
For those of you who are dog owners, you may be like me, and dread the walk before you go to bed. Just when I am dozing off to sleep watching something on Netflix, our dog Bailey glances up and says, “Is it time yet?” Usually there is not much going on at this time of night other than avoiding that pesky rabbit in the yard across the street who Bailey is always hoping to catch.
That changed a few weeks ago when just across the street from our house on Columbia Avenue I came upon two older women, one of whom I caught red-handed picking up and removing a yard sign for one of the commissioners seeking office in this year’s election. Knowing it’s a crime to remove political yard signs from someone else’s property, I asked if they knew the homeowner and had permission to do so. The woman yelled back at me, “You are a part-time resident so what do you care?”
First of all, any homeowner (which we are) can vote. So, if she was telling me to mind my own business because I had no stake in this game, she was sadly mistaken. Despite her blatant bias against this candidate, which really irked me, her statement bothered me more because to her we were “less than” those who are fulltime residents.
Which got me thinking, is there any merit to her hurtful statement? Does she really feel that as a part-time resident we have nothing in common, nor care as much about Rehoboth as she does? We experienced a similar feeling of exclusion back in March and April when the city and governor instituted a quarantine for those who traveled from outside of the state.
The messages made us feel not only unwelcome but a threat to the well-being of this community. This argument assumes because we are not fulltime residents we care less about the health and safety of those in Rehoboth. It is not where you come from that makes you a threat to public health, it is the failure to wear a mask, physically distance from others, and regularly wash your hands. That is not only offensive but just plain illogical.
Having said this, I have pondered what would be different about our lives once we take the plunge and move here permanently. Practically speaking, Rehoboth has been our home base since we arrived from Washington, DC on March 12 to shelter in place. This is the most time we have spent in Rehoboth in the 25 years we have had a home here.
Prior to the pandemic, DC served as our home base for all basic medical needs including our primary care physician and all other specialists we visited. We got our prescriptions filled at the neighborhood Harris Teeter. We took our drycleaning home and brought it back here to Rehoboth. Most of our philanthropic support went to DC-based nonprofits.
As an executive coach, I help people create an intentional focus on making impact through purpose. Then it hit me...I was not practicing what I preach. I am embarrassed to admit that I was not applying that to my life here in Rehoboth. Even though I serve on the board of CAMP Rehoboth and have become acquainted with more locals, I realized that our social network is mostly comprised of those who also have made Rehoboth a second home destination.
That is changing, thanks in part to COVID-19. The decision to relocate our family and work operations to Rehoboth has forced us to get to know neighbors we only casually waved to in the past. Our ability to walk the dog on the beach in Cape Henlopen State Park early on connected us to other pet lovers who we would not have met otherwise. We soon subscribed to the LOCALS ONLY Rehoboth Facebook Group and Nextdoor Rehoboth site to learn about the latest Executive Order from Governor Carney or where to find paper towels or Lysol wipes which were in very short supply.
With no end in sight, I have made a decision to reach out to those who live here fulltime and learn why they decided to settle here? What might we have in common? Where is their favorite restaurant? Who is their primary care physician? What nonprofits do they support and why?
My hope is that our neighbors begin to refer to us as locals regardless of how many days a year we actually sleep here. As we transition to the next phase in our life’s journey, our roots are growing deeper here and it feels good.
Wesley Combs, a CAMP Rehoboth Board member, is a diversity and inclusion expert, executive coach, and a passionate social justice advocate. He is the founding principal of Combs Advisory Services where he works with clients who share his values of enabling equity, equality, and opportunity in the workplace and the community.