Driving back to Hilton Head Island along I-95, I saw a highway billboard with a picture of our iconic lighthouse in Sea Pines. The billboard said: “Hilton Head Golf Island.” For some reason, it caught my attention and got me to thinking: Are we the Golf Island?
Of course that is our international reputation. We are one of the golfing capitols of the nation. This is how people see us and relate to us from all over the world. Yet, is that who we really are?
Yes, we are a devoted golfing community but we are much more than that. We have just celebrated Thanksgiving. Is it not time to reflect upon what we as citizens of Hilton Head are in the sense of our priorities and what we can be grateful for?
We have been through so much since mid October in the wake of Hurricane Mathew. Yes, we have a right and a duty to give thanks to God that no one died. We can also be thankful that Hilton Head’s residents are generous and are members of a generous community. I have been inspired and humbled by the many organizations that collected funds and donated to food pantries, and by the work of Volunteers in Medicine and other social welfare organizations. Foundations are making grants to aid to folks who need a little extra help to get through the challenges of Matthew. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone could bring a bag of non-perishable foods to their local food pantry or write an extra check to help struggling families?
Clergy have been meeting over the last few weeks to learn about the needs that we might not see on our beautiful community. Yes, there are folks who are hurting right now. There are people who are renters and who were forced to abandon their apartments due to wind damage or flooding; people whose hurricane insurance deductibles have forced them to pay out major sums of money. I know that many congregations have organized groups to go out into the community and help our neighbors without regard to religious affiliation. I was one of those who benefited from the hands and hearts of the religious community.
Let us not forget that while the golf courses are up and running and country clubs are repairing their facilities, there is more work to be done for our entire community.
We are a diverse community because we have rich, poor and middle income folks, all sharing this island together. We have work to do not only in helping people fix their houses, but to make sure the workers who live here and take care of our facilities, homes, restaurants and golf courses receive a fair deal. There are times that a crisis like a Hurricane can bring out not only the best, but also the worst in people. I have heard of stories of renters who are forced to leave their apartments due to hurricane damage but are still held responsible by landlords for paying the rent. They may not be able to afford to live in our plantations but they are our neighbors and they do work hard for us to maintain our special way of life. Isn’t helping them - financially,with food contributions or with knowing their legal rights - doing God’s work, too?
So what is Hilton Head really about?
I would like us to think about the Hilton Head that pulls together and goes above and beyond for not only the citizens who have resources but for those who do not. Hilton Head is a unique community because we not only have a wonderful way of life, but also an ethos that we have the time, the resources and the will to help others. That is what distinguishes us and what should make us proud to be residents of our community.
Let’s make sure that when we speak about our neighbors, we are not only talking about our neighbors down the street but our neighbors all over the community. It is easy to become insulated from the world in our communities. Now is the best time to extend a hand and the resources for our neighbors. Remember what is written in Leviticus, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love and devotion make a difference for each person who we may not even know but who needs us more than we will ever know. In Rotary there is a maxim that says, “Service above self.”
Or from my faith tradition, “ If I am not for myself then who shall be for me? If I am only for myself then what am I? If not now then when?”
Hilton Head Golf Island is also Hilton Head Caring Island.