Commentary, Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts

For decades, perhaps centuries, children were cautioned during the holidays to “be good little boys and girls,” or else Santa Claus would put a lump of coal in their Christmas stocking instead of gifts.  Children today may relate to coal only through those old stories; the coal chutes and bins that were part of home heating systems for centuries have been replaced by electricity and natural gas, cleaner fuels to be sure, but not the stuff of fairy tales.  Nonetheless, a lump of coal still is an appropriate aphorism for this time of year, as we review who and what was “good or bad” in Mason District, just in case Santa reads this column!  (“Good” receives a candy cane.)

  • Candy canes to all those residents in Northern Virginia jurisdictions who contributed coats, socks, and gloves to Ukrainian relief earlier this year.  The outpouring of support for Ukraine under siege was incredible, and Paxton Van Lines delivered more than 27 tons of goods to Wilmington, North Carolina for shipment to Ukraine and Poland.
  • Candy canes also to the Hidden Oaks Nature Center, which re-opened in July after renovations and expansion funded by voter-supported Park Bonds.  Nature Playce, where kids can explore nature, make mud pies, and get a little dirty in a safe space, is fun for parents and children alike.
  • A lump of coal to red light runners and STOP sign busters who seem to be increasing on our local streets.  Does saving a couple of seconds by ignoring safety rules really make a difference in arrival times? Or does it make everyone else’s commute more dangerous?  Pedestrian deaths have doubled in Fairfax County this year, a grim reminder to slow down and pay attention.
  • A lump of coal, sadly, to Fairfax County’s leaf collection efforts this year.  Earlier and more abundant leaf fall, and staff and equipment shortages, combined to make some streets treacherous as piled leaves take up parking and travel lane space.  Extra crews have been dispatched, but service levels definitely are not meeting residents’ expectations.
  • A candy cane to Cathy Parr, a Mason District resident with multiple disabilities, who was crowned Ms. Wheelchair Virginia for 2022.  Cathy traveled to Michigan for the national pageant; her smile alone could win awards!
  • A candy cane to Jake’s Ice Cream at Barcroft Plaza.  Owner Robin Rinearson has a unique business plan: the manager and staff at Jake’s, named for her nephew, all are young adults with special needs, who are earning a paycheck and serving their community.  The ice cream is yummy, and I’ll bet that you can get a sundae with crushed candy canes on it this week!
  • A candy cane, yes, a candy cane, not a lump of coal, to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) for its response to appeals from the Culmore community to make pedestrians, and drivers, safer in that busy stretch of Route 7.  Following a bilingual community meeting this summer, VDOT extended pedestrian signal times, installed flexible bollards on Glen Carlyn Drive, and is engineering additional sidewalk improvements in the corridor.
  • Candy canes to our public safety employees – police and fire and rescue.  Last Friday’s fire academy graduation assigned six of the 21 recruits to fire stations in Mason District.  Their careers are just beginning; their contributions to the community likely will be life-changing for many.

As you celebrate the season with friends and family, you can find your own recipients of candy canes and lumps of coal.  Hopefully, there will be more of the former and few of the latter.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!