Why bother serving on committees, donating time to arts organizations, fighting for the environment? Why open your personal life to scrutiny by running for office? Why give up hours from the book you wanted to read, the TV series you're addicted to, the golf course?
One of the people who knew the answer to that question died Saturday, doing what he had done for decades, giving to others. Mark Skakel was in Chittenden, collecting equipment his forestry students at Stafford Technical School had used in managing a woodlot as part of the classes Skakel taught there, when he died of an apparent heart attack. It was a day off. No matter. Skakel was one of those people who didn't measure the requirements of the job or the needs of his community by figuring out how many hours he had worked that week already.
The forestry and natural resources program that Skakel had honed and nurtured over the years was a perfect example of the kind of dedication to something beyond the paycheck and the requirements of the job that he represented, a level of civic reliability and personal responsibility that went far beyond words like duty.
A selectmen in two towns over the years, Wallingford and Shrewsbury, work for the Democratic Party, contributions to various cultural and environmental programs, committee work with the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board and the Chaffee Art Center — all these Skakel took on not for personal aggrandizement but because there was work that needed to be done.
The beauty, of course, as those who knew him know, is that he enjoyed these activities. They weren't functions to him; they were fun. He made them that way because he believed that a community functions best when its members give of themselves to make things better.
People are selfish. People are lazy. People spend a lot of time twittering and watching reality TV instead of actually living. It's sad that someone who gave so much of his life had his own life cut short, but then Skakel might disagree. He had fit an awful lot into his 56 years — being a dedicated father, a sweet husband, a solid friend, and a person who gave his time to causes that we all benefited from.
Thank you, Mark.
Yvonne Daley is a former reporter for the Herald.
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