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Warm words from Main Street in a time of distress

Until this week, if you had asked me who Rod Blagojevich or Bernard Madoff were, I wouldn’t have had a clue.

One is the Illinois governor accused of trying to sell Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder. The other is accused of running a giant ponzi scheme estimated to have cost investors as much as $50 billion.

With all that ails us, Julius Caesar’s reputed last words as he was being stabbed to death by a mob of Roman senators come to mind: Et tu, Brute?” (You too, Brutus?).

Well, I don’t think the country’s circumstances are quite as dire as Caesar’s. But we do have our challenges.

The grand plan on how our economic mess will be resolved is not clear to my lowly brain, nor, I suspect, to the wizards of Wall Street and Washington.

But the mess will be cleaned up, and the sun will shine again.

I take comfort in my fellow citizens, and how most of them are going about their lives and their business.

Friday night, I stopped by a holiday street party at Lakewood Ranch. Main Street was jammed, and there was a long line of parents and kids waiting to visit Santa. It was appropriately cold and festive. Several members of the Lakewood Ranch Garden Club were conducting its annual holiday bazaar, standing among potted poinsettias and gift baskets.

Marion Schoenborn, the club president, said bazaar proceeds go to club projects, including developing the arboretum behind town hall. An arboretum is essentially a showcase for trees and shrubs, a place of natural beauty.

Club member Melanie Scaffe said the club’s focus is on the environment, and giving back to the community through landscape improvements.

I asked the women what message they would like to share with the greater Manatee County community.

“We wish them a wonderful holiday season, enjoying friends and family, the simple things,” said Scaffe.

“Our country is going through a lot,” Scaffe added, noting that everyone has been affected.

Many neighborhoods in Lakewood Ranch were taking part in a food drive for the hungry, she said.

Another club member, Phyllis Weber, picked up on Scaffe’s comment about the appreciation of the simple things in life.

“I like what you said about the simple things,” Weber said. “We may not be able to spend as much, but what’s important are your family and friends.”

Scaffe added one more thought: “We thank the community for supporting us every year. We’re honored to be part of this community.”

I came away from talking to Schoenborn, Scaffe and Weber with a new appreciation and respect for what garden club members do. With their wisdom and decency, a lot more than our landscaping is in good hands.

For more information about the club, call 907-0644.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be reached at 708-7916.