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The Heart of Provincetown

That’s MY Town you’re talkin’ about

As is the case with most virtual dialogue these days, naysayers and pundits usually get the lion’s share of attention. Much, but fortunately not all, of the conversation that once made Provincetown such a dynamic community has migrated to assorted social networks. In days gone by, passionate discussions at the “meat rack” or Adams Pharmacy (before state regulations cut the number of tables) constantly assessed state of things ’round town. It seemed for some time as though these “we’re all in it together” discussions had given way to single-topic threads and punditry. And if one were to pay close attention to the preponderance of what was being said, it would seem as though Provincetown was going to the dogs, overrun with wealthy second-home owners, greedy businesses, and soulless civil servants. Until the blizzard, that is.

What surfaced in the midst of all the snow that overwhelmed us was a strong signal that the heart of Provincetown—the reason I chose to call it my home nearly thirty years ago—still beats strong. At the height of the blizzard, the town’s emergency shelter was brought online. Nothing spectacular about that. What was spectacular was the courtesy and concern that Provincetown’s finest brought to the task of escorting the elderly from their homes to the shelter. Letters to The Banner, our local paper, spoke of extraordinary courtesy and consideration. As a footnote, I would like to point out that many of these dedicated community servants suffered through much criticism from myself as well as many others as absurd, militaristic tactics were foisted on them from above just a little more than a year ago. Yet they excelled. They served.

Once at the shelter, those folks were treated to superb meals donated and cooked up by local restaurants, chefs, and neighbors. All this while their pets were being cared for in a special shelter. From the sounds of it, it was difficult to tell if this was an emergency shelter or a field trip. Well, perhaps not exactly that, but an experience peppered with more love and compassion than all the cyber-negativity and moaning about the loss of Provincetown’s soul would have lead one to expect.

Then just a couple of days ago, a 93 year old woman’s home went up in flames. She was rescued—with only the clothes on her back—by the first police officer to arrive on the scene. The fire department responded. The volunteer fire department. And they did all they could to put out the flame while making every effort to save as much of her late husband’s art as they could. Within a couple of hours, a local museum became a drop-off point for donations of clothing and other necessities. An online fund was set up, (click here to donate) and now there is a move afoot (yes, via social media) to send her cards of support.

I doubt there’s a person who knows and loves Provincetown who isn’t feeling just a bit relieved to see that the town’s essence, its generous overflowing heart, is still beating strong. The tourists will return, the next outrage will flare up pitting neighbor against neighbor, and perhaps this past week will become a distant memory, but I think we’ve all remembered why we choose to live here. I know I have, and I’m going to try never to forget.


A. C. Burch
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