“Could you do me a favor?” the woman asked the announcer.

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My husband was judging a county fair and I was visiting with the woman who was organizing the show schedule.

“What do you need?” said the announcer.

“Tomorrow, when you recognize the superintendents for the swine show, could you make sure to recognize Bob for being the swine superintendent for 50 years?”

I looked at her in surprise.

“Wow! Fifty years is a long time. That is quite an accomplishment.”

The woman, who I can only assume was Mrs. Bob, said, “Yes. He wanted to quit, but I wouldn’t let him. I said, ‘This is the only volunteering you do. You don’t help at church or anything else. You have to do your part.’”

And that, my friends, is how rural communities work.

Everyone has to pitch in. Everyone must do their part.

If you simply looked at the surface of a rural community, you wouldn’t understand how we make it work.

How can a town of 800 people have a beautiful park, a brand new library, support the 4-H and FFA kids, send church groups on mission trips, hold a city-wide four-day celebration?. . .and the list goes on.

The only way all of those things happen is if people volunteer. In a small town, there’s a long list of jobs that don’t come with a paycheck, do come with a lot of headaches, but are absolutely necessary to maintain the quality of life of a rural town.

In a small community, there’s not a maintenance department to paint the bleachers at the football field. Or maintain the grass and dugouts at the baseball field. The only way there’s a food bank is if someone organizes a drive to support it. Someone has to volunteer to lead the school board or the church education committee.

And the only way a five-day county fair happens is if Bob and all of his friends show up. My guess is that Bob has had his share of sore feet and has had his behind chewed on a time or two in 50 years. But he does his part to offer those learning opportunities for the young people in his community.

At that same fair where Bob became swine superintendent 50 years ago as a very young man, there were college students working the other side of the ring. Will they still be helping 50 years from now? I have a sneaking suspicion the answer is yes.

If we intend for rural America to continue to be the shining example for the rest of the world, we must do our part to keep it that way.

Maybe you don’t have a Mrs. Bob to encourage volunteerism, so let me take this opportunity to remind you. What volunteer role do you have in your community? It doesn’t matter what it is: baseball coach, Sunday school teacher, library board member, city-wide celebration organizer or swine superintendent. You must do your part. And thank you to Mrs. Bob for reminding us.

Holly Martin can be reached at 1-800-452-7171, ext. 1806, or hmartin@hpj.com.

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