Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Job Opportunity

The second and third weekends of March the county that is home to us welcomes Spring with a festival that brings in, some years, more than fifty-thousand visitors. Our year-round population is just over two-thousand, and as a community we depend on the income from those visitors to fund many of the services we need: fire and rescue, recreation, service clubs, special school programs and the like. Many of the residents have small businesses ranging from arts and crafts to retail and lodging, and these weekends are vital to the community’s survival. So everyone finds something to do.

I usually spend two of the four days at the local fire house, where I have been a volunteer for many years. We serve a variety of locally prepared foods, including trout (from our native streams), country ham, barbecued chicken and cole slaw and green beans prepared with secret and much admired recipes. Typically, our members with young children bring them along, and before you know it, there are helping hands that are often so small it takes two of them (the hands) to hold a glass.

The day I spent this past weekend was enhanced by a small child of perhaps six, the daughter of one of our younger volunteers. I was in  charge of seeing that glasses were filled with tea (“sweet” or “unsweet,” as the sign indicated) or water or coffee so that as people passed through the food line they could pick up the included drink on the way to a table. Without asking for help I was soon being assisted by this very young person, wearing a very small (but still a bit large) fire department T-shirt. She took up the position by the ice chest, filling empty glasses for me to then fill with tea or water. She had been watching the process for some time, and when the young man who had been working with me moved on to another task, she just stepped in and took over.

I tell you about this because it impresses me in this way: we don’t have a lot of opportunities for the kinds of experiences city kids have. We have a school system that only has about 200 kids in the kindergarten-through-high-school cohort. There are service clubs for the teens, like 4-H and FFA (Future Farmers of America), but the little kids have to begin somewhere, and it is often in the fire house during the spring and summer and fall and winter fund raisers. Our young people often go on to service jobs: food, machinery, people. We have more than a few nurses, EMTs, Paramedics and Fire Fighters who are employed professionally in adjacent counties. There are garages and speciality shops serving the agricultural and logging enterprises, and a few restaurants and a hotel and a motel and B&Bs, and a medical center, as well as pure commercial enterprises. They are successful because the people of the community understand serving others, and they learn that at a very young age.

I suppose there are parents reading this who react with horror at the idea of a five-year-old carrying a tray of dishes from the table to the dishwashing window, or wiping a table or putting ice in glasses or even washing dishes (always under the supervision of at least a teenager), but this is the way we pass on our philosophy of life: being a citizen is being part of a community, and a community is people working together for a common goal. Ours is to preserve the place we live and the way we live.

Maybe we need to get the politicians in Washington to come work with us for a weekend.

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