Sometimes, especially during a summer like this one has been, I wonder just how many gallons of perspiration from how many folks it takes to successfully host a town celebration.
And the next thing I ponder is just why it is that so far there have been enough people willing to work so hard and put in so many hours as a volunteer to contribute some time to make sure it happens each year.
I've decided it comes down to pride and ownership in your town, whether it's hosting a RAGBRAI overnight stop or a Fourth of July celebration, Watermelon Day, Bluegrass Festival, or a Jewell Jubilee. It might be an extravaganza or a homecoming celebration, too, but whatever you call it, it takes lots of people hours before, during and after the big day. Even a Wednesday night in the park doesn't just happen all by itself.
Finding volunteers is a real challenge in these times when everyone is very busy or thinks they are. It's awfully easy to hide behind job or family responsibilities as a reason to stay away. But you know what I've discovered? Everyone is busy, and we all have responsibilities to our families and our jobs. And something else I know is that we can do what we want to do. If we all do at least a little bit, then there isn't just a handful of people who have to do it all.
When I had a job recruiting volunteers, the phrase I came to dread the most was "I'll help, but I won't be in charge." Now I'm not sure I'd even find people who are willing to help. Being in charge can actually be easier, because then you get make the plans and then tell people what to do.
A funny thing happens when you volunteer: You learn about yourself and about others. And you just might get to know some really good people that you wouldn't have met otherwise. There's a certain bond that forms when you work with others toward a goal, something you aren't always able to find in other ways. Besides, it can be fun.
Plus I've found it's just lots easier for most of us to visit with a stranger when you're both doing a task like washing dishes than it is to make forced small talk in a social gathering. And along the way you're both doing some good for a common cause.
Volunteering is a tradition all over our county, our state, and beyond. It might not be for a fun cause, like Watermelon Day. There have been hundreds of strangers showing up to help find a missing child in a cornfield, for instance.
You know that takes sweat equity, just like it does to help host a town celebration on a sweltering summer day in Iowa. Many hands make light work.