The Real America

A few days ago, I was asked to fill in for the bass player in a Bluegrass band that was to play a benefit in a very small East Tennessee community.

I’m certain that my wife – who plays mandolin in this band – told me the purpose of the benefit, but the excitement of getting the chance to play caused me to not pay much heed as to why we were playing.

Yesterday was a beautiful day with hardly a cloud in the sky.

We drove 30 minutes to the event and were surprised to see a fairly good sized gathering of people. There was already a guitar player performing on stage; singing to a very active, appreciative audience. Several vendors had booths set up and there was a vintage car rally in the back of this large field where the event was taking place.

Inside an old store building, which the Ruritan uses for their meetings and dinners, there was plenty of food and drinks for sale.

It turns out the people were gathered for the purpose of raising money for the community’s Little League-that had started from scratch last year. Funds raised were to go to purchasing fencing along the foul lines – in order to keep spectators safe – and for site prep for the new field.

Close to 60 kids, from all over the county, played in the Little League this past year-easily outnumbering the residents of this little hamlet.

As we tuned our instruments, I noticed a very animated middle aged man, with a cordless microphone, encouraging folks to buy their tickets for the cake walk. It was evident that he was the organizer of the event. It was also plain to see that there were many others who had volunteered to help this gentleman  have a successful event.

It guess it was a combination of the pretty weather, the lovely countryside, the hustle and bustle of the people and the smell of hamburgers cooking that led me to comment to no one in particular, “This is America”.

The stage consisted of a farm wagon with bales of hay behind us, in order to prevent band members from falling off the wagon. As we set up, more cakes were put up for auction. It was quite windy, but we performed rather well and had a good time.

As we packed up one of the band members came over with a plastic jar that contained several bills. I had noticed people, from time to time, coming over and putting money in to the jar; but I assumed these were contributions for the Little League. No, the money was for us. It turned out to be $18. We decided to donate the money to the Little League. As the next band was setting up, our band’s donation was announced. It wasn’t necessary for this to be announced, but the applause we received was worth much more than $18.

The farmers, home makers, and factory workers who put together this event would likely not think of themselves as being special. However, their feat yesterday-the coming together for a worthy cause- makes them very special. I’m sure today, as they go about informing people of their successful fund raising, it will occur to them just how much they accomplished as people.

No doubt planning for the next event will take shape very soon!

When “funds dry up” real community leaders step to the fore. This is how America has always worked.