Pay It Forward: Can we make Homer even better in the New Year by expressing thanks, supporting each other?

Coming to the end of 2016 before winter solstice and basking in a white, fluffy, snowy day as occasional sun rays glow through the clouds over Kachemak Bay, it’s impossible to not think of people in Homer who give tirelessly of themselves to make this a place special in this amazing geography.

Reflection at this time of year deepens and grounds us, a necessary thing before the earth tilts on its axis.

What would we be without a production of the Nutcracker, a Pratt Musuem or Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center, multiple eateries that produce delicious food year around? Or multiple art galleries and shops of interest, the Spit and its trails and the care of? Or the many churches and loving people who serve and care for the hungry and homeless? Or KBBI? Or our beautiful library in the heart of Homer, the theater that brings opera, the Bolshoi and the Film Festival while fundraising regularly for many nonprofits? Hospice of Homer, the Garden Club, local farmers and volunteers who work at every level in this town?

You get what I’m saying. We all know and appreciate how this town works even when we gripe and complain from time to time in our human skin about one issue or other, how we can’t understand powers that be at the city, borough or state level.

The other day the governor’s awards were given and Lance Petersen was named. I felt deep gratitude and smiled because Lance would never “toot his own horn.” No, this man has been paying it forward since I heard his name in 1969, the first year we moved to Alaska to Kenai. He was innovating ways to create staged live theater then.

The first play of Lance’s I saw was “Fiddler on the Roof,” sitting on bleachers in the old Kenai Junior High School gym, what is now a charter school in the middle of Kenai along Spur Highway. With minimal props, no curtains and cobbled lighting, Lance made that play come alive. The audience felt the poor treatment of Jewish people in Russia. The heart and soul of the play, joy to be alive amid pain and suffering staged in a simple, powerful way. People shuffled out reflective and quieted when it was over. Many productions followed including “West Side Story” with music and acting that challenges the best of the best. Outstanding work with minimal resources. I can’t forget how these productions affected me.

For decades Lance has worked tirelessly to keep live stage ALIVE. At Homer High School, where I worked for seven years, Lance cast students in roles that transformed them into marvelous adults. Ask any of these grown people today. He taught them stage presence, lighting skills, sound skills, and instilled confidence that only acting, singing and dancing can do. He’s a magician. Watch him act. He instinctively knows where to place his body, hold his hands, turn his head, speak loudly or softly. I think he understands human nature at a deep level. Lance is one of the Kenai Peninsula’s treasures and he lives in this town.

Pier One, his brain child, that he worked to bring into existence, serves not only Alaska but tourists worldwide. The productions in a simple space encourage youth and adults to express themselves in spoken word, music and acting skills. Pier One has transformed many a person who worked there. If Pier One ever left this town, we would be poorer for it. Sitting in the middle of campers and RVs, it reflects our shared humanity.

Can we have too much sharing face to face?

Homer has lost too many of its beautiful citizens this year. We feel the loss in many ways not only personal but an emptiness that seems to abide, at times lodge in soft places in our souls.

How would Homer look if in our businesses, our non-profits, our jobs and life choices, volunteer efforts, words spoken, music sung and played, greetings given and meetings attended if each of us would think first of how we can serve each other and Homer to make it better, because Homer is already good?

This season, this coming year, let us all think how, on a daily basis, we can support each other and this community as so many have done before us. Then we would have a real live staged production.

Flo Larson is a Homer Foundation Board member.