On October 23, 2015

Rutland’s oxen are conquering its lions

By Steve Costello

As many of your readers may recall, I enjoy perusing “Aesop’s Fables” from time to time, and look for lessons that apply to life, work and community.

Three recent events, a speech by incoming Rutland Police Chief Brian Kilcullen, a conversation with filmmaker Art Jones, and an Associated Press article about Rutland’s ongoing revitalization in the face of economic, cultural and drug-related challenges, all reminded me of one of my favorites.

Kilcullen’s speech, a no-notes exploration of why he became a police officer, how he rose through the ranks of the Schenectady (N.Y.) police department, and why he applied to become chief in the City of Rutland, was a story of persistence and caring, commitment and collaboration. His story was laced with examples of people working together for the common good.

So too, was the Associated Press article, released Oct. 14 and published and broadcast by radio and television stations, Internet sites and newspapers across the country.

With headlines ranging from “Rutland fights scourge of heroin” to “How a tortured city fought back against heroin,” the article documented the heroic, ongoing efforts by police, politicians, non-profits, businesses and the community to protect itself and rebuild itself against long odds. Partnerships and teamwork were cited among the keys.

Jones, who will be the keynote speaker at the Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting later this month, is a storyteller extraordinaire. Whether making feature films, documentaries or corporate films, Jones has a unique ability to see what others miss – including facts that many, consciously or unconsciously, simply fail to acknowledge.

His greatest strength as a storyteller is an unflagging sense of curiosity, a trait that has him constantly asking questions and challenging the answers, conventional wisdom and the status quo.

While today my friends and colleagues might believe I’m a font of optimism about Rutland’s future, it was time spent with Jones during the production of “The Blood in This Town,” the focus of his lens on the myriad of people working to improve life here, that created many of the earliest sparks for that sanguinity. Like many here in Rutland, I failed to fully grasp the city and region’s strengths until they were flickering across the screen at the Paramount – willpower, spirit and collaboration among them.

But Jones already knew the moral of the lion and the oxen.

The 1867 story, actually known by several names – “The Lion and the Three Bulls,” “The Four Oxen and the Lion,” and “The Bulls and the Lion” – has many permutations, like most fables, but each of them relates the same important message.

Here’s one version of the story: “A Lion used to prowl about a field in which Four Oxen used to dwell. Many a time the Lion tried to attack them; but whenever he came near, they turned their tails to one another, so that whichever way he approached them, he was met by the horns of one of them. At last, however, they fell a-quarrelling among themselves, and each went off to pasture alone in a separate corner of the field. Then the Lion attacked them one by one and soon made an end of all four.”

The message is simple: united we stand; divided we fall. Put another way, as Chief Kilcullen, Jones and the AP article suggest, together we can overcome even the most fearful difficulties.

Steve Costello lives in Rutland Town and is a vice president at Green Mountain Power.

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