"The CanDo Spirit" 

The other day I heard an Englishwoman being interviewed by an American television reporter on the state of the economy in Britain.  Despite grim unemployment numbers she was surprisingly positive.  “It’s another blitz, isn’t it? We’ve been tested before and we’ve always come through.  You’re like that in the States, too, aren’t you?  We always think of you Yanks as having that ‘can do’ spirit.”
Oh, yes.  It’s more than the refrain by the character dubbed Nicely-Nicely in Frank Loesser’s 1950 hit musical, Guys and Dolls.  This Valley is filled with groups, large and small, who do all they can do to enrich our communities. Napa Valley CanDo is one case in point.
Following the 2008 presidential election, a small group of Napans dedicated to furthering change created a grassroots community service and advocacy group. The goal?  To encourage greater community involvement by easing the path from intent to action.  
CanDo is an issue-oriented group, not a partisan one.  Community service is not the domain of Republicans or Democrats or Independents.  To our way of thinking, it's the job of each of us to see what we CanDo to enrich our community, bit by bit.  
Napa Valley CanDo just celebrated its first anniversary and it’s grown from 15 to 530 with more signing on every week.  There are no dues or required service hours.  We don't even meet on a regular basis.  Instead, weekly emails highlight "done-in-a-day" projects created when members spot a need.  We also respond to calls for volunteers from area non-profits. Following members' passions, there are on-going issue groups as well.  They develop their own projects in energy/environment, healthcare, education, and state governance. Another issue group, CanDo Kids, has recently been organized to create and coordinate community service projects for children and youth.  Why should grown-ups have all the fun?
The anthropologist, Margaret Mead, said "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
Over and over again we hear how meaningful it is for individuals, families, organized groups and students to show up, help out, and walk away knowing a bit more and - perhaps - caring a bit more about this community.  It’s the embodiment of the CanDo spirit.
This column, by Hilary Zunin, first appeared in February/March 2010 issue of Napa Valley Life magazine.  www.napavalleylifemagazine.com