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Chester County Press

Editorial: Yes, Chester County, there is hope

12/21/2021 02:57PM ● By Richard Gaw

We, the vast lot of us whose lives are tendered to the necessary obligations of adulthood, rarely find ourselves in the beautifully vulnerable position of holding onto faith and hope, the way we did when were children.

Our schedules are rigid, our commitments are many, and most telling, they derive their importance in our lives by the fact that they are clearly defined and assigned. We live according to parameters and we remain within the lines. We have taken the playfulness of our childhood beliefs and stored them in the attics of our memory, or worse, made the decision to render them to dust.

Sometime in September 1897, eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon, a resident of 115 West 95th Street in New York City, was so captivated by her faith that she fought to keep it alive. It is likely that during that time, the young girl was made fun of by her fiends for believing in Santa Claus, which prompted her, at her father’s insistence, to write a letter to the New York Sun.

“If you see it in the Sun, it is so,” he told his daughter.

Her letter was received by Francis Pharcellus Church, a veteran newspaperman who was serving as the Sun’s editorial writer at the time. His response to the young girl – one that has become the most-read newspaper editorial of all time, was completely uncharacteristic of Church, who had become known for his curmudgeonly editorials that espoused hardened cynicism and skepticism. In the span of five paragraphs, however, Church blew open the notion that his work as a journalist had become hardened. It was as if he took up pen and paper and found again his lost heart of optimism.

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,” Church wrote. “He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias.

"There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished."

It is perhaps naive of this newspaper to introduce such frolicking words of hope to a county that has every right to abandon it. In the span of the last 12 months, Chester County has witnessed the devastating effects of Hurricane Ida, the reminders of which have left homeowners in Oxford and beyond left to rebuild not only their houses but their lives.

Chester County has invested all of its medical might to hold back the continued onslaught of a worldwide pandemic that is now in its second strain of the virus with no signs of abating.

Just weeks after the future of two of its hospitals was apparently saved by an investor, thousands of county residents who had come to rely on the hospitals at Jennersville and Brandywine for their family’s care are now left to see both close soon. 

In the face of a worldwide pandemic, small businesses throughout our municipalities have suffered innumerable financial losses.

Yet, within the course of a year that has seen the darkest of despair, we have been fortunate as a newspaper to illuminate hope manifested in the form of action, community and love.

We have walked the neighborhoods of Oxford, reporting on how an entire community came together to help those whose homes were severely damaged by a hurricane.

We have documented the continued and dedicated work of our medical professionals, whose care in the face of COVID-19 has been the strength that moves mountains.

We have written about the efforts of Chester County government – as well as private enterprises and private citizens -- to provide funding for small businesses.

We have shared the story of how a group of prominent stakeholders are working together to create additional broadband access throughout the county, specifically in those neighborhoods that have been traditionally underserved.

We have followed the courageous work of a Kennett Square-based community service center that has simply refused to let families go hungry or homeless by providing them with access to food, shelter and hope.

“You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart,” Church wrote. “Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond.

“Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.”

Happy holidays from the Chester County Press.



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