Lessons from a Spider

“Salutations….” This is how the spider, Charlotte, the heroine of E.B. White’s beloved children’s book Charlotte’s Web, introduces herself to Wilbur, the pig. (She goes on to explain to a bewildered Wilbur that “…salutations are greetings” and merely her “…fancy way of saying hello.”). I’ve chosen Charlotte’s words to open our fourth blog entry because a.) Charlotte’s Web is my all-time favorite book; b.) E.B. White loved Maine and made his home here for much of his life and; c.) Charlotte’s Web is a wonderful object lesson about what is possible when members of a community work together to achieve a common goal.

Wilbur was a runt piglet who was saved from the axe by a little girl named Fern. When he got too old to be bottle fed, he went to live in the barn of Fern’s uncle, Homer Zuckerman, which is where he met Charlotte. He also met Templeton the rat; the goose; the gander; the goslings; the sheep, and other assorted barn residents, all of whom would eventually be involved in a coordinated community response to keep Wilbur from being slaughtered for bacon.

Each of the denizens of Zuckerman’s barn had a role to play in this intervention—the remarkable Charlotte, of course, who spun the webs that incorporated such words as “some pig”, “terrific,” “radiant,” and “humble”, that convinced Zuckerman that his pig was something extraordinary; the ornery Templeton, who in his forays to the dump returned with bits of print media that included the words to inspire Charlotte; the goose that laid the rotten egg that played a pivotal role in keeping Charlotte alive to spin those words; and the sheep that convinced the rat to pull his weight in this effort. Wilbur would not have gone on to live a secure and safe life unless all members of his little community had worked together to assure his safety.

The vision of Family Violence Project is a community where violence is unacceptable and people treat each other with respect. All of us here at FVP are working toward that end, but we know that it will be impossible to achieve without the help of each and every resident of the community. The responsibility for the security and safety of our neighbors lies with us.

There are many ways to shoulder this responsibility. Often, it doesn’t take a huge amount of time or effort, and the results can, indeed, be lifesaving. Take a moment to look over the following suggestions, and then check out our website, www.familyviolenceproject.org for more ideas:

Volunteer at the Family Violence Project: We offer a 36-hour training, 2 or 3 times a year, that will prepare you to answer the help line, facilitate a support group, work with children, or work as a court advocate
Contribute money, household items, or services to FVP: We are always grateful for the generous financial contributions from community members. Our shelters and the families we serve are often in need of new or gently used household items, as well.
Display information about FVP and domestic abuse in your workplace, house of worship, library, or other community meeting place: We will be happy to supply you with posters, brochures, and other materials.
Reach out to someone you are concerned about: If you have a family member, friend, neighbor or co-worker who you think might be experiencing domestic abuse, you can let them know about your concern and offer them information about Family Violence Project. The most important thing you can do is to listen, believe, and offer support to the victim.
Help to hold abusers accountable by speaking out: If you see or hear a battering incident occurring, call 911 to involve law enforcement. When you see or hear signs of sexism, racism, homophobia or ageism, talk to the person exhibiting the behaviors, if it is safe for you to do so. Let them know that you don’t appreciate that kind of behavior or those kinds of remarks.
If you are a man, join other men in helping to end men’s violence against women: While we know that most men are not abusers, we know that some traditional roles of masculinity contribute to abuse. We are looking for men to look to long term solutions and help us create a violence-free community.
Seek support for yourself: Our advocates are trained and prepared to speak to anyone about their own situations or the situation of another. Call our help line at 623-3569 or toll free at 1-877-890-7788.
In E.B. White’s penultimate paragraph, we find out that the coordinated community response assured that Wilbur was protected for the “…rest of his days. Life in the barn was very good…night and day, winter and summer, spring and fall, dull days and bright days. It was the best place to be…”

So, take a very simple lesson from a spider and a pig, and their friends: Every single one of us has something to contribute to making our community a safe and secure place in which to live. All of us, working together, will make this happen.

I would welcome your ideas or suggestions, and, of course, your willingness to work with FVP to insure an end to domestic violence in our community: Then it truly will be “the best place to be” for all of us.

Deborah K. Shepherd, Executive Director