The people of Rockland deserve to enjoy full credit for the fact that Down East Magazine has named our city the most desirable place to live in Maine. It’s nice to receive high praise from such a respected source, isn’t it? So here’s the question: How do we maintain our awesomeness?

It is a gift that the Heart & Soul Project has been launched at this threshold moment. Have you heard about it? This volunteer project is being nurtured and grown by some of Rockland’s gentlest citizens, so we may say and hear, loud and clear, what we all love about this city and then strive to protect and develop what we value. It’s a kind of party; it is free to attend and you are the guest of honor.

To boil it down, Heart & Soul wants to facilitate a process so that we, the people, may interview ourselves to understand exactly what we Rocklanders value most. This homegrown interview process will take a long time but it’s going to be rich diggings. We will listen, talk and write down one another’s Rockland stories. When it is done, we can fully see and appreciate what we are — from a thousand distinct angles. 

Heart & Soul volunteers are Rockland people. They are volunteering to research, compile and extrapolate from the stories our deepest common connections. When done, we will have, for the first time, a citizen generated values map to navigate our future. Many towns and cities, including Damariscotta, Biddeford, Gardiner and Bucksport, have gone before us and declared the Heart & Soul process unified and transformed their communities in ways they never considered possible.

We Rocklanders are resilient, loyal and enterprising. We’ve never shied away from hard work. We look out for each another fiercely. No, we don’t want fixes that cheapen our authenticity. Yes, it is our nature to be skeptical of new fangled ideas. But look how we’ve supported and grown with the good new ideas. And I say, Heart & Soul is good because its goal and strategy resemble a barn raising — not a pyramid rising.

So far, there are maybe 150 people that have enrolled to volunteer in this Heart & Soul project. This project will take two years to complete. Probably a thousand people need to be interviewed. We are reaching out to you, our neighbors and friends. We need you to make this real. Every kind of Rocklander needs to be sought out and heard, otherwise, it just won’t work. 

If we can agree to lift together, we’ll stay the best place to live in Maine. That seems like a good idea to me.

Debby Atwell, Rockland