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Money isn’t everything in a small town

by Carmen Cuthbertson
| November 29, 2021 12:00 AM

Rumor has it that many of the Covid refugees who have fled American cities and suburbs to settle in the Flathead have brought great wealth with them. Nothing wrong with that. Good for you, I say. By all means, enjoy your moolah.

While you’re at it, though, don’t lose sight of the fact that money can’t buy everything. It can’t, for example, get your deck fixed when every contractor in the valley is booked solid for the rest of the season.

According to a friend of mine, who interacts with many financially successful newcomers, some expect the almighty dollar to remove every obstacle in their way. They get positively apoplectic when a new reality confronts them: While their cash purchases lots of wonderful goods and services in the Flathead Valley, it can’t magically multiply our workforce.

If, wherever you may have lived before, wealth was the only coping skill you needed, then offering to pay more may seem reasonable to you. To me it sounds like bribery. I’m glad that local contractors refuse to accept a hefty bonus from someone who wants to jump the line. Money isn’t everything in a small town, where a reputation as an honest, timely and trustworthy contractor factors heavily into the success of one’s business.

If this frustrates you, then you have lost sight of an important ethics lesson: A commitment is a commitment.

My children learned this in grade school. They would happily accept an invitation for a birthday party at a friend’s house, looking forward to the usual games and fun and birthday cake. Two days later the coolest kid in class would invite them to a mega party at the local pool, for the same date, and they would ask if they could switch.

“Nope,” I would tell them. “Once you accept an invitation you have made a commitment. Barring grandma’s funeral or some other life-altering event, that commitment will be kept. After all, how would you like it if your classmates abandoned you on your birthday after they had promised to be there?”

Maybe those who try to bribe their way to priority service have never heard such a lecture. Maybe they have forgotten what it’s like to be at the receiving end of a broken commitment.

Well, welcome to the Flathead Valley. Here is your chance to learn.

Besides, you wanted something different, right? Isn’t that why you moved here? So, embrace your new reality, learn to live with the challenges indigenous to this beautiful place, and handle your aggravation with poise and patience instead of brawn and bribery.

Practice a little humility while you’re at it, and you might just become a beloved member of our community.

Carmen Cuthbertson lives in Kalispell.

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