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Important People

Sometimes I think important people don’t realize how unimportant they actually are.

A few decades ago, a guy by the name of Robert T. Smith wrote for the StarTribune. I clearly remember a story he told about accepting a job in Washington D.C. Before he left Minnesota, a crusty old editor took him aside and said, “Here’s something you need to know. When you’re in Washington the president will give a speech, and in the middle of the speech he’s going to make some sort of gesture, and the next day the whole town and all the media will be talking about that gesture and just what he meant by it. But, what you need to understand, is that in the whole country more people will have watched “Bowling for Dollars” than watched any portion of that speech.”

Why did that come to mind? Three things. One night last week I went to a community meeting about daycare issues, of which there are many. A few state officials showed up, which was great, but the main speakers and the determination to find solutions came from regular folks – parents, providers, business owners, etc. Everyone in the room knew the problem and everyone was determined to fix it. I was proud to witness it.

Then on Saturday I went into town to a fund-raising event for a local cancer support group. One feature was the high school track lined with hundreds of ribbons inscribed with names in honor or in memory of loved ones who’d had cancer. People walk around the track and read the names, and the cumulative weight of all the memories stirred is almost unbearable. This is a very small place, so to see all those names is stunning. Dozens of people were there early to help set up and I was one of them because I couldn’t stay for the actual event. I had to leave to go to another town in our county to attend a gathering for families and friends of people dealing with memory loss. An Alzheimer's researcher drove out from the Twin Cities and gave a great presentation, but more importantly the room was lined with dedicated people standing at tables full of resources provided by local people and organizations. It was a room full of problems with no easy answers, but a determination to help as much as possible.

Needing day care, dealing with cancer, and helping someone struggling with memory loss are very different issues, and luckily there didn’t seem to be much overlap in the groups. The total number of people at all three events was not an insignificant percentage of residents from our county who gave up their free time to do something that mattered. People in our neck of the woods, and I’m guessing yours as well, are doing amazing things.

I imagine the important people pushing their foolish agendas will never see their true place in the world. It reminds me of a moment many years ago when I was at a farm auction, eavesdropping on a couple of old farmers. A woman we all knew walked in front of us. The old guys watched her go by and then one commented thoughtfully, “You know, if you could buy her for what she’s worth and sell her for what she thinks she’s worth, you’d never have to work again.”

Now, there are some things we just can’t do by ourselves – we need some of the resources that a great country can provide. Whatever they call what’s going on in Washington right now is frustrating, particularly since there’s so much to do and a group of people there see nothing getting done as a good thing.

I hate that, but I’m trying really hard not to let it change me, because I’ve always felt that dreams don’t come true – you make dreams come true, with inspiration, effort, and commitment.

We can’t do everything ourselves, but we can do a lot.

Copyright 2023 Brent Olson

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