Sometimes it seems as if nothing ever goes smoothly out here in the near west suburbs, much less the county or state (which appear always to be teetering on the brink of disaster). Local pols think the other side can’t make a coherent decision to save their lives, while taxpayers are increasingly astonished at how much it costs now just to get basic municipal services and a decent education for the community’s kids.

But peel back the layer of discord and you also find it remarkable how well things actually do work, mainly because of people with a sense of duty, public service and flat-out generosity.

The same local politicians who battle back and forth are neighbors, who give enormous amounts of time for little or no compensation. Then there are the always unpaid members of village commissions and volunteer organizations who help make life in the villages worth living, organizing events, providing recreation opportunities and more.

In Riverside there are the folks from the Olmsted Society, whose members clear out invasive species and clean up public lands, doing work that would otherwise never or seldom happen; the Friends of the Fourth, who single-handedly saved the Fourth of July celebration in the village; the Big Chill Crew, who magically provide that ice skating rink every winter and the Riverside Juniors, who help fund that and just about every other major undertaking in the village; Tom Sisulak, who resurrected the annual Memorial Day event and has been responsible for planting thousands of tree seeds in the village’s forested areas; students at Hauser Junior High, who have collected so much food for the needy over the years it could stock a Costco many times over; the Chamber of Commerce which continues to step up time and again to make the downtown an attractive place to visit despite tough times; members of the Landscape Advisory Commission and other volunteers who selflessly organized and then worked to complete a planting program to beautify the downtown.

The same can be said in Brookfield, where the Chamber of Commerce, on the brink of extinction a few years ago, has become (along with the Grand Central Business group and the Bar Owners’ Association) a premier event planner for the village, organizing street dances and pig roasts and, of course, a robust farmers’ market that keeps getting better. There’s also the St. Barbara’s Food Panty, overseen by Sister Margaret Halligan and her fellow nuns, and stocked by the generosity of Brookfield adults and school children, all of whom do their part to feed the unfortunate. Village commissions – beautification and conservation, recreation and special events – help to instill pride and a sense of community in the village. The Kiwanis and Rotary, like the Lions in Riverside Township, do their good works, largely under the radar, but benefiting people in the villages nonetheless.

So, when you see a cop patrolling the streets or a paramedic responding to a medical call at a home late on New Year’s Eve, or when you and the kids take a spin around the ice at the Big Ball Park on Christmas Day, remember that all is not broken.

Lots of things in these villages work very well. Not because it’s easy, but because there are people who care. Thanks.