Springfest has been around 25 years and it has changed and grown over the years. It started as a way to get the newly-formed St. Patrick parish family to bond together and enjoy fellowship. Later, it evolved into a community-wide event that became a primary fundraiser for the parish. Over the years, I've been involved in a variety of areas with Springfest and have had lots of great times and some challenges as well.
As I reflect back, one day from an early Springfest always sticks out to me. I guess it is one of my favorite memories and captures the true spirit of Springfest. Back in the "early days", the event was much more labor-intensive. Saturday set-up day reminded me of an old-fashioned barn-raising. By nightfall, a parking lot that was bare in the morning had been transformed into a beautiful array of booths that would house the next day's activities.
Set-up day was filled with excitement, confusion and lots of hard work. I am not known for my handy-man skills, but in my younger days I was perfectly suited for a variety of tasks.
"Grab that booth. Move it over there."
"How about help me with this table."
"Grab those chairs."
"We need another booth over here."
"Help me set up this tent."
"I need a few good men."
You get the picture. If there was a job that didn't require skill, I was your man.
On this particular day, I ended up with the rope detail. We were to surround the island in the parking lot with ropes that were strung between posts. At first, it looked like an easy task, but after the first few posts, I knew it wasn't going to be so easy. The island suddenly looked like the size of Greenland and we were instructed to put those posts about two inches apart. Ok, it was really more like three feet apart! But I majored in math, and I calculated how many of these we had to do. Let's just say it was a very a big number and it looked like I was in for a long, hard, day.
Ronnie witnessing the Springfest grand prize raffle ticket drawing by co-chairperson, Andrew Brasfield
But it turned out to be one of the best jobs I've ever had. And I owe it all to my two work partners. I was paired with two of the "older" guys. One was my Dad, Louis Muro, and the other was Benny Bakane. I didn't know Benny very well then, but by the end of the day, I had a friend and a role model that I still cherish to this day.
As we went from post to post, Benny and Daddy were constantly chattering about something. They were both so full of energy and joy it was hard not to get caught up in it. Working alongside my Dad was a pleasure in itself and throwing Benny in for good measure made it a whole lot more fun than "work".
At the time, I was working with the youth of the parish. That day I learned a great lesson and it changed me and my ministry forever. If I had just hung out with the "young guys" that day, or my own circle of friends, I would have missed out on something great. Instead, I got a little out of my comfort zone and learned something valuable. I realized how important it is for our "young" people to get to know the "older" folks in the parish. I got to know Benny Bakane that day, and I learned something about joy, about service, about a good attitude and friendship.
That became part of my ministry as I looked for ways to get our young people involved in parish life, encouraged them to show up for work days and events like Springfest. We created a program where our young people and our seniors could share a meal and get to know each other. Too often when we're young we discount the older generation because we have all the answers. Then when we're older and really do have all the answers, well, no one wants to hear them!
You just never know what you will learn from that man or woman working along side of you. Yes, their hair may be a little gray and they may talk about the "good old days" a little too much, but they were young once. They, too, once thought they knew it all. The thing is - if we'll just watch and listen, we might learn a thing or too.
It's not just a lesson about respecting our elders. It really applies to anyone you don't know that well. Work a day along side someone you don't know and suddenly they are no longer a stranger or just a face you barely recognize. Not only could you learn something new, you could gain a new friend in the process. In the best of cases, you get both.
To me, that day captured the true sprit of Springfest. Parishioners of all ages show up to work side by side for the church. Some say it's too much, but if you take the right attitude and surround yourself with the right people, work can be fun. And now that I'm one of those "old guys", maybe I can be like my Dad and Benny and spread a little joy amidst the work. If so, then maybe I did learn a little something in that parking lot over 20 years ago.