I did my civic duty last night in an effort to avenge for a prior showing. I attended the 10th annual pot luck and silent action for the Nature Society, an event I had dragged my husband to a few years ago and we have strategically relived ever since.
I discovered the event after being invited a few years ago due to my involvement as a volunteer on another community committee. For a short time, I had attempted to contribute my limited talents to my city through a fund-raising committee. I did not do too much, quickly learning that a pool of individuals tied together by years of commonality – neighbors, kids hockey teams, teachers, church groups, or friends – pretty much handled organizations and political matters. What I had also learned is that a great deal of energy goes into local politics and a huge amount of money is needed to keep things running. The task can be daunting particularly for this city with a population boom drawn to its nightlife, a growing downtown, and additions of high-rise condos. Coming from a small town, I have a soft spot for organizations that plant the flowers, hold the parades, set up the 5K’s , and try to keep a spirit of pride in the town they call home. I support the city organizations where I can but my charitable intent goes out the window when a silent action is involved. Then it just becomes savage.
Skipping our typical Friday night out with dinner and drinks, we hit the old Elks Lodge near the expressway a few minutes after the advertised start. The large room included 10 to 12 round tables of what seemed to be a sea of white haired individuals engaged with dinner. Scattered around the edges of the room were longer rectangular tables covered with bright green, yellow, orange and blue plastic runners where items to be auctioned were presented. To the back, another table was lined with a spread of pizza and pot luck dishes straight from every family’s well guarded recipe books – casseroles, lasagna, sauerkraut, pirogues, fried chicken, rice dishes, and assorted desserts. The trusty Lodge bar was in the far corner and a line had already formed.
We had entered a different era, unlike what I had noticed in the previous auctions. The average age was 65 to 70. No one was playing with their phone, music wasn’t playing in the background, televisions were nowhere to be found. The room was warm. With stealth, middle-aged speed I was certain this was our night.
I headed to the tables, my husband to the bar. We were determined to vindicate ourselves from our last auction where the newly elected State Representative swooped into most of our bids at the last possible moment to write in a slightly higher bid. I guess that was his unfortunate way to always have us remember his name on election day. The first walk through indicated no one had bid. Evidently, eating was priority. I upped the ante on some items just to help the cause hoping what I really did not want would be outbid. Historically, the bids were always too low and based on the age of the night’s crowed I envisioned the worse, potentially impacting the Society’s ability to raise funds. I could sense that somewhere in the crowd, there were women peering over their glasses watching and cursing me while my wing man was filling his plate.
It was impossible, however, not to walk away with a something wonderful. Members had donated species from their gardens, old prints, even pottery. Although the local merchants’ generosity was everywhere, other items such as a monthly delivery of homemade pie made the event particularly enduring.
The award ceremony abruptly began as I was told to “move away from the table” for future picture taking. The night’s Host of Ceremonies spoke through the sound system as if addressing a crowd of ill behaved junior high school kids, knowing their names, directing where he needed to direct. I stood against the back wall where the temperature was cooler as members were acknowledged and thanked. One senior woman, dressed nicely, with a serenity that you would have to be blind not to sense, was thanked for her years of organizing the event. Earlier, she had presented to the only 7-year-old in the crowd the 1st annual award for children’s poetry. Another man was thanked for his endless dedication for cutting down the brush in the many parks, maintaining the fences deer had destroyed, and fall clean up. I took another look around the room. Maybe they looked older, but they were a well oiled machine. These were people who gave back and devoted a bit of their lives to a changing community. They were the ones who made the city look nice, feel safe, and cared for. Thinking back to my past experience, I realized their generation was truly the only ones represented in most of the city’s organizations. I never felt I was contributing anything but on this night I understood why. They had it under control and worked together to build what they wanted to see. I felt a tinge of worry for the first time as I watched their slow movements and expressions. I wondered if younger citizens would see the value in the dedication to societies, clubs, and organizations that seamlessly brought life to a sprawling suburb. I am not certain I could. My mission for a successful silent auction suddenly became just a footnote to the evening.
The tables closed one by one, color by color. My compassion for local theatre landed me with four tickets to two different shows to be used in the next few weeks. My early enthusiasm also bought me a Paint Party for two, drinks at a local bar, dinner at local hot spot, and golf lessons. Apparently the bidding up did not quite work completely as planned since bidding stopped with my higher entries. The top auction items for the night were in the categories of grocery stores as well as a locally crafted sofa table. We laughed as we left, recounting the odd night and the funny comments by others yet I couldn’t help but feel that this may be one of the few wonderful moments of a fading yet immensely important generation. No bid could ever match their worth.