Words are a bit like sponges. They can soak up all kinds of meaning and significance from the world around them or they can get squeezed dry from overuse. Take "community," a word that once meant a group of people living in relationship to one another. Now that word is drenched with our contemporary ideals of localism, sustainability and neighborliness.On the other hand, the word "impact" has become such a handy device of adding emphasis when what is really meant is "effect" (when it's used as a noun) or "affect" (when it's used as a verb) that it has become a pale and leached-out version of itself.I work with words, so I understand the temptation to overstate for effect (or for impact), but just like a doctor who bemoans the overuse of antibiotics while prescribing them, I understand the risks. Before I use that word I always remember that I once had an impacted wisdom tooth, and that craters on the moon were made by the impact of meteors from space. If in that context the word still makes sense, I give it a green light.So it's not lightly I apply that word to a couple of high-impact events taking place this month. First is our Remarkable Women breakfast on May 18. We've had many intimate parties celebrating the women who have graced this special issue, but this year is different. Our theme being "Women of the World," and with world events rising to a kind of apocalyptic crescendo, we're opening the doors to the public. The women you will meet in this issue and, should you choose to come, at the breakfast held in their honor (see our Remarkable Women page) can provide depths of understanding and heights of inspiration to help put our whole crazy planet in perspective. That's what I call impact.Another May event is taking place at the other end of the global spectrum, i.e. the homefront. Last May a new organization called Building on Hope set out to unite the builders, remodelers and designers of the state in an effort to fix up a group home in need of repair. The beautifully rebuilt Krol House Boys Intensive Residential Treatment Facility of Easter Seals on Mammoth Road is an enduring testament to their success. I was involved in getting the group off the ground, but it was a dazzling array of volunteers and generosity that made it happen. Even Gov. John Lynch got involved, declaring the month of May to be "Building on Hope Month."Well, it's Building on Hope Month once again, and this time the goal is to encourage similar efforts all over the state. Local non-profit groups large and small do vital work in our towns and cities, often on a shoestring budget. Keeping their facilities sturdy and attractive is usually the last thing on the priority list, so Building on Hope is encouraging people to turn out in May to beautify, rebuild, tidy up or restore the structures that provide services to those in need. And to get the ball rolling, they've chosen four particularly worthy projects to assist with advice and publicity - and a chance to win the first-ever Building on Hope Community Impact Award.Meanwhile, we'll be cheering on anyone who is organizing friends and neighbors around the Building on Hope motto: "Many hands make light work."Because having the kind of impact that leaves a meteoric mark sometimes takes an entire community.
This article appears in the May 2011 issue of New Hampshire Magazine