Sarick: Aspen takes care of its own
The city of Aspen’s Definitely Aspen project is partnering with The Aspen Times to run monthly columns from residents about what makes Aspen special and what elements of Aspen’s small-town character speak to them. The Definitely Aspen project is meant to celebrate Aspen’s character and community. You can find out more about the project and writing a column at http://www.definitelyaspen.com.
Many of us have had the experience of telling someone from a remote part of the world that you live in Aspen only to have them tell you that they have heard of Aspen — maybe they actually know someone from here. This probably happens more in some locations than others, but it speaks to how special Aspen is.
It’s not just another small town, nor is it because some celebrities happen to descend on Aspen with some regularity. This isn’t exactly a revelation — most everyone who decides to live here has come to the realization that there is something special here.
My wife and son recently returned from a seven-month trip around the world doing service learning and volunteering. I had the pleasure of meeting them along the way and doing some traveling of my own.
As I reflected on my hometown while miles and worlds away, I realized Aspen works as a community because so many people decide not simply to live here but to contribute to life here. I love that I live in a place where my good friend is a Realtor who acts in the community theater and sings in multiple choirs. I love that my son’s coaches have included bankers, contractors and an IT consultant. I applaud businesses that declare powder days, and I admire our renaissance-style ski bums who rip during the day and serve wine at night.
This observation led me to ask myself how I interface with what I see as central to Aspen’s character — the give and take of what I contribute and what I get back and the opportunity to express many sides of my personality and passions.
I am proud to be a member and president of the Aspen Jewish Congregation. The congregation shares the sanctuary and meeting space with the Aspen Chapel, and the relationship has provided many interfaith programs and led to a deeper understanding and, more important, deeper friendships among different groups of people. The opportunity to have programming and discussions that bring our diverse community together is one I cherish. It is that much more enjoyable to experience all the amazing parts of our town when I feel like I did my part to make it stronger.
My wife and I are foster parents. It surprises some people that there is a need for this here, but there is. I am proud to be a part of a community that continually takes care of its own with grace.
We also have taken in scores of young people to live with us while they launched their Aspen dreams. I often think I am simply one of the many “strays” whom my wife has taken in.
To some, I may be the “Highlands guy.” Working in real estate in Aspen can be fraught; sometimes I feel like I should wear a scarlet “R” on my jacket. My business partners and I purchased commercial space at Aspen Highlands, and it truly has been a labor of love. “Is it a contribution to Aspen?” one might ask. I think so.
I believe strongly in place making, not just renting space. I am proud of the role we have played in creating a home for local businesses and helping rejuvenate and revitalize Aspen Highlands Village. It may not be perfect, and we’re not done yet, but Aspen Highlands Village is on the way back. I don’t pretend to know what the future holds, but I take my role as a custodian and contributor seriously.
I believe the next chapter for Highlands has yet to be written. From the energy of closing-day parties and powder-posse ski days to the many families and young people and the young (and some established) businesses that call Aspen Highlands home, I know that the best days are ahead. Some of the goals may be modest, and some may be more audacious, but everything I do professionally is done with the belief that I don’t simply work in Aspen the way I might work in a suburban office someplace. I live here.
As so many of you have shown by your own example, living in Aspen means a commitment to contributing in a meaningful way and to the best of each of our individual abilities.
Raising a family here, working here, working for community organizations and, yes, sometimes taking a powder day or a hike with a friend — these are some of the things that are important to me and make Aspen special. I am struck by how many people share a belief that community doesn’t just mean living here or making a living here.
That belief — and those people — that’s why I love Aspen.
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