Local volunteers: Politics just never seems to intrude

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There we were, my daughter at my side, sitting in the pickup truck at 7:30 a.m., watching the rain come down. It was the Dog Park Work Day on Saturday when we stain the gazebos, clear the weeds from the fence, trim the tree limbs and any other thing that needs doing.

A massive weather front had stalled over the area and rain was on the menu all day. All of my tools were drowning in the bed of the truck.

One volunteer came by and I turned him away, explaining that we could reschedule. Others drove up, each being told to go on home. By 8:35 a.m., I told my daughter that anyone who was going to come had probably already come. Starting the truck, we headed for home.

I could not have been more wrong.

You know, in a time when leadership in the federal government is trying to sort out who is lying, who is a socialist, who is a Nazi, who is patriotic, who is an extremist, who is a racist, who is right and who is wrong, it is certainly nice to know there are local people, neighbors, you can count on to get things done.

There are people volunteering in your school’s PTO trying to raise funds to make ends meet. Others deliver Meals on Wheels or staff the local food pantry to help people in need.

Many of our neighbors volunteer to be your child’s ball coach, scout leader or Sunday school teacher.

The interesting thing is I never quiz any of these local volunteers on their political persuasion before I work with them. Their patriotism never comes into question. Nor do I ever doubt their motivation for serving our community.

People serve in their communities because they love their families and their neighbors. There are no lobbyists trying to influence them, no special favors in exchange for action. Similarly, there is no money to be made in back-room deals from local volunteerism. Perhaps, that is why they accomplish so many good things with little trouble.

I only wish government could be so pure and so effective, but we all know the truth. Healthcare plans, defense contracts, property rezoning and bogus road deals all reek of power plays and financial influence.

It’s the influence peddling and the money that force our political system, at every level, to forsake pure motives and compel the struggling political parties vying for our treasure to raise doubt about every aspect of an opponent’s character. Think about it; they have to go after the other’s character because their actions are so similar.

While it was still raining, I received a phone call from a guy named Charles. I had mistakenly thought Charles was calling to obtain the make-up date for the Dog Park Work Day. Instead, Charles said that 10 to 12 volunteers had been working at the park for the past hour and a half in the rain.

Shocked, I told him that I was coming right down. When I arrived, the rain was coming down in buckets. The volunteers, tired and soaked, were picking up their tools and heading for the exits, smiles on their faces.

They had the completely cleared the thick brush around the perimeter fence of the Dog Park, trimmed most of the trees and cut weeds inside the park.

I was embarrassed to have thought no one else would come to the clean-up day under such dismal conditions. On the other hand, I was uplifted by the people who thought enough of the park to sacrifice their personal comfort and tackle the various jobs.

I just do not see county commissioners, state legislators or congressmen working with the same passion or sense of purpose for those they represent. They lack the humility to pull together for the common good, distancing themselves from tough conditions, often accomplishing nothing.

Seriously, something to think about, it has been over a year since the collapse of the financial system, and nothing substantial has been done to prevent the “too big to fail” syndrome that brought the country to its knees, no power for the Treasury Department to wind down failing financial monsters, no structural changes.

It is humorous to hear people talking about the “Obama Healthcare Plan.” The President has yet to put pen to paper to produce a plan or endorsed another, promising, though, not to sign any plan that increases the deficit, praying we will buy that is even possible, and it is not.

Instead of joining in the national “lying, socialist, unpatriotic, Nazi, right-wing extremist, racist” rhetoric, try to figure out how we can bring the dialog down to our level where humility, pure motives and devotion to our neighbors rule.

Defending a party line, no matter how badly it smells, has landed us in a giant stalemate with the taxpayers losing.

How about discussing the meat and potatoes instead of quarreling over the garnish?

[Steve Brown is the former mayor of Peachtree City. He can be reached at stevebrownptc@ureach.com. Portions of this column were taken from his blog at www.ptcdogpark.com]

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