No hands for the ship |

No hands for the ship

I was thinking about community service this morning. No big surprise. I was at a Rotary Club meeting. That’s kind of the point.

We have a foot race planned for Sunday, still the little Eagle club’s big fundraiser. The money mainly goes to kids, in one way or another. One way is college scholarships.

I’m easily the worst member of the club. I find little time to make it to meetings. I’m not a good, or even a decent fundraiser, although I do pitch in with what I’d call the more physical things we do. I helped interview candidates for adult scholarships to study abroad. I make a point of getting up before the sun for the Run for the Future. I can do that. I’m a great go-fer.

I’m just no good at all for asking for money. I can ask basically when someone stopped beating their wife and the “tough” questions of journalism easily enough. But there’s a different psychology there. I’m in the driver’s seat.

Asking for donations of any kind, even doughnuts, makes me queasy. A salesman I am most definitely not.

Support Local Journalism

My work is a form of community service. Yes, I understand that you may not see it that way. You may well see what I do as pure nuisance, the rough equivalent of the black fly, the kind that bite back in inland Maine and other hopeless places.

But I believe quite earnestly that I and my ilk are absolutely essential to democracy. Absolutely. You don’t have democracy without us ” unpapered, often uncouth, shallow, tactless, talentless us. It’s part of the beauty of it all. God has an awesome sense of humor.

Consider that democracy is a messy, wasteful, so often despicable template for governance. Only thing worse is every other form of government. Capitalism sucks, it’s unfair and even cruel. Only it works and is fairer than any other economic system in history.

It’s kind of the same with that free press.

The only thing missing in all this these days is that largely apathetic public. Well, maybe apathetic is the wrong term. Millions care deeply about Britney Spears. And don’t get me wrong, I think she’s a nice and even talented girl. (Thank God, though, my 13-year-old daughter never could stand her.)

But for whatever reason we can’t muster quite the passion or care for our own towns that we use up fawning on celebrities. Folks who do so much as pick up litter for three hours once a year along I-70 are a tiny minority.

We trample to vote for president ” who frankly matters least to our daily lives in our own towns. But our turnout for elections closer to home ” such as the highly crucial school board, or the local town board or council ” well, we can’t be bothered. But who do you think is making the big decisions about educating our children, deciding whether to let a big box dominate town, and so on? Frankly, from my vantage, it’s downright pathetic.

I’m not going to go too highfalutin’ here. I’m involved in what I do in large part because it’s my job. It’s my profession, not just idle passion, to inform the populace (now that does sound highfalutin’) and try what I can to get you to take more of an interest in your own damn community. I shouldn’t have to do that, but it’s the truth.

So I try to observe, nudge, holler, tease, even insult. I’d hit you with a bat if I thought that might help you wake up a little more.

By wake up, I don’t mean I want you to agree with me. Hah! What a boring world that would be. I just want you to think a little about what you really, really ought to think about, just a little.

Not to get in the way of “Survivor” or sports or whatever ridiculous soap opera you’ve gotten yourself so lost in ” mine is basketball. But surely there’s a little room in there for making your own town a little a better place. Or at least having some clue what your town board, school board and county commissioners are up to. Yes, boring on one level. But so vital on another.

Anyway, I can and sometimes do go on and on about how we should be better about all this. But although I’m a member of the Rotary, and serve on the local United Way board, I’m in the same fix with too much else going on to participate as much as I know I probably should.

Certainly there is balance. Part of this adventure life for us humans has to be just plain fun. No question. Part of it is that urge to make the world a better place for our blink of time in it. The challenge is bridging the two.

Some of that is knowing yourself enough to better understand how you can best do your part. Some of that is making your sense of service to the collective ” community, country, humanity ” part of your mission in life. Probably the biggest part, from a practical point of view, is contributing in a way that is also a lot of fun.

There’s something to the axiom for sailors ” one hand for the boat, and one hand for yourself.

The problem today is too many of us are not minding the boat at all. It shows.

Support Local Journalism