Dear Readers October 9, 2008

There is an infectious bug going around, and I’m hoping every one catches it this weekend.

It’s not the bug that had me shivering at my desk and hugging the toilet Tuesday night. This bug is much more pleasant. In truth, it’s downright fun.

The bug is being carried by the folks who have been working all year to put together the Foothills Fall Festival, which kicks off Friday, Oct. 10. It’s a dual-threat because this bug is a combination of Enthusiasm and Passion.

I love it when people love what they do -- whether that be their 9-to-5 job or their volunteer efforts. My favorite soccer coaches, Boy Scout leaders and teachers as my children were growing up were those who just loved what they did. It was obvious in every word, even when they were tired, challenged or discouraged. Somehow, that love of the job always came through.

Here is where I am going to get in trouble. I know two of the primary carriers of this enthusiasm and passion bug for the Foothills Fall Festival. Neither are going to want to be singled out, and both are going to try diligently to pass any praise on to someone else. So I will get myself out of trouble with them right now by telling you this: A festival as excellent as the Foothills Fall Festival doesn’t happen without an army of volunteers who have enthusiasm in their pockets and passion in their eyes. The fact that I don’t know them all is my problem.

The two I do know, however, have to be at the top of the ladder. Patti Clevenger with Children’s Adventure Land and Carolyn Forster with Arts and Crafts will see another year of hard work come together this weekend. They have lived their respective areas, know every tent stake, every outlet, every problem vendor. They have been watching the weather forecast for weeks and will keep an eye to the sky today just in case.

What I love about Patti and Carolyn is the unbridled joy they bring to this labor-intensive volunteer effort. I have seen them both on “event day,” and their eyes are shining, their smiles genuine. You would think someone just plunked them down in their areas and crowned them queens. In truth, they have sore muscles, torn fingernails, a little straw in their hair and face paint on their arms. They haven’t seen much of family and friends for the past few weeks, unless you count the folks at City of Maryville.

And through it all, they will spread their enthusiasm and passion for the Festival to all who come in contact with them.

When my older son -- a rather pragmatic youngster -- was in elementary school, my husband and I were involved in a civic group called the Jaycees. We worked as hard at our “club” activities as we did our jobs, and we carried that passion and enthusiasm to each event. One day, when Trey obviously would rather have been elsewhere, he turned to me with anger in his voice and said, “WHY? Mom, why are we doing this?”

I was stunned to discover it was a question I couldn’t answer. Help people? Okay, but that wasn’t really it. Enjoy the friends working with me? Yeah, but that’s not enough to carry you through.

In the end, I probably told Trey something inconsequential like “It helps people.” But in my heart I realized that the person getting helped was me. There is something about taking on a task that you don’t have to do, that no one can make you do and simply doing it because you love to do it. And, if you are lucky enough to do it very, very well like Carolyn and Patti, it makes the passion burn even hotter and the enthusiasm spiral higher.

Give them a big Thanks when you see them this weekend. They won’t know what you’re thanking them for, but you will. The Foothills Fall Festival is an incredible event, and the volunteers are who makes it happen.

Sherri Gardner Howell


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