How Woodstock 50th taught me about togetherness

Unknown to me fifty-years ago, when I was seven years old, the anomaly dubbed The Woodstock Festival, made history. How was it possible that 450,000 people knew to trek their way to the town of Bethel in upstate New York? No internet. No cellphones. At a time when area codes categorized people by regions.

In 1969, I was living on our family farm in southeastern Washington state. Oblivious to the world.

Mom and Dad had recently bought a black and white television so we could watch men land on the moon. I observed and thought, “Hmm, that’s interesting.” But was more intrigued by the boxy gizmo sitting on an end table, showing me moving and talking images.

I was a teen before I learned about Woodstock. I learned the clean version. Self-caring musicians, well-behaved attendees, people picking up their own litter, standing up for what’s right, wanting peace.

I still believe the clean version but as is true to any human version of life, it comes with flaws, eventually exposed. Fame sometimes blocks self-care, bad behavior lurks in the background of the human mind, litter happens, and what’s right and peace aren’t always clear.

And yet, after all these years, it’s the clean version that receives the brunt of my attention and is passed along in conversations. Fortunately, I’m not alone. Last Sunday, Times Herald-Record ran an article, Spirit of Woodstock lives on in memories of historic festival, confirming the type of attention and communication that points to the good in humanity.

From Times Herald-Record, Steve Israel interviewed three people who were closely connected to the original Woodstock. They shared hindsight and deepened admiration to the festival.

The article also carries a black and white photo showing a long line of cars piloting, bumper to bumper and sandwiched between thousands of people walking side-by-side, to the festival.

That photo reveals an answer to my very curious wonder of how so many people knew to make their way to a dairy farm in Bethel, back in the day before the internet.

Despite the fact I avoid crowds like the plague, the photo asked me to admit that I’m still in close contact with people. Whether in a line at the grocery store or eating out in a restaurant. I may be sandwiched in with family members, co-workers, or strangers, but without hesitancy and without the internet, we can strike up a conversation and keep sharing the spirit of togetherness.

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