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As I write this article, we are going to vote about the ATV ordinance in Pownal. For more than a year neighbors have been pushing and pulling, yelling and whispering, hoping and fearing the roles of ATVs in our town. Today’s vote will make a decision.

“Who will be the winner and who the loser?” some people ask. The vote has decided that by the time you read this.

Or has it?

What happens AFTER the vote?

As a small town, we have choices.

We can carry grudges. Years ago when I was a pastor I went to my in-law’s home and we brought back dried teasel pods. About four inches long, they are absolutely covered by sharply pointed spines, and they HURT if you squeeze them.

For my children’s time I put a few of these pickery pods into a box and covered it. At children’s time I held the box high so no one could see inside and invited them to gingerly touch what was in the box. They reached in and squeaked, “Ayah!”

Then I asked, “What might these be?” Children speculated, and I asserted that this box contained GRUDGES. If we grip them tightly and hang on they will hurt us… a lot… for aMars long as we hang on. But when we let go we feel a lot better!

After the Vote in PownalAfter the vote in Pownal we could hold onto grudges. We did that after conflicts about what became a very controversial Empower Pownal effort a few years earlier. Will we keep hanging onto grudges, reciting hurts and judgments? Or will we let go of our disappointments? Will we go to work inside ourselves and between ourselves to forgive and open with compassion to one another? Will we persistently search out caring connections? Will we lift our hearts above the differences we fear or detest to help lift the spirit of our community? Will we sacrifice our own grudges because we care more for the well-being of our whole town?

After the Vote in AmericaOn a larger scale, what will we do after the national elections? We all will experience lots of disappointments, losses, hurts. Where will we focus our thoughts and emotions in these coming days?

The power of evil has tricked us into thinking that certain people and groups are the Enemies. We fall into the delusion that we know other people’s intentions and imagine the worst. We invest in blaming our struggles on someone and hate the hell out of them. We may create trauma in ourselves by repeating over and over the things that are awful to us. We may frequent media that claim the real truth, and are so politicized that they deepen our trauma and rage and close our hearts.

God will weep to see Her children invested in darkness.

America at her best has sought out ways to work for the common well-being. I think of our country’s response to the great depression or World War Two. Leaders and citizens in every corner worked together investing in the sacrifices and hard work that could shape us to be a country at its best.

Big crises confront us today, particularly the changes in our climate. Storms, floods, fires, rising oceans threaten us all. If we choose to stop fighting one another to work and care together… life will be its best.

It could start right here in Pownal or Bennington.

This morning as the vote in Pownal begins I read a message on Front Porch Forum written by a neighbor whose sense of peace and business both are profoundly at stake in issues around ATVs.

“I’ve spent some time working on the ATV question and I’ve had many conversations with residents who have strong feelings about this issue… The real questions is: how are we going to treat each other as neighbors once the outcome of the vote is determined? ... I look forward to Tuesday’s vote and the opportunities it will give us to be good neighbors.”

Opportunities and dangers face us all after the votes. May the Force be with you and live through you1 Choose your path and play your part in shaping the future of your community and nation!

Marsh Hudson-Knapp is a member of Second Congregational Church and the Interfaith Council and can be reached at


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