Last week, I heard two different people in two different places say the exact same thing, “This is my week-long vacation. I wouldn’t miss it.”
One man was an official at the Jasper County Fair. When I met him, he was relaxing on a bench in the sun with many people gathered around him.
Everyone there knew him because he had been going since he was a kid, his kids participated there and now his grandkids. The fair was a generational experience like that. It was a family tradition, a reunion, a social norm.
For this man, it was time to reflect on the past, see the kids succeed and see so many familiar faces. It made him happy.
The other man was a RAGBRAI rider from Madison, Wisc. When I met him, he was eating an ear of sweet corn, standing alone in the shade in the middle of a large crowd.
He rode alone, but he didn’t mind the solitude. He came each year because he enjoyed his experience of riding alongside fellow riders and seeing many famliar faces he only saw once a year.
It was different from his routine lifestyle in the city. It made him happy.
You see, that’s one of the best things about being a writer at a daily newspaper and it’s one of the reasons I love my job.
I get to go out into the community and meet people. All different kinds of people; no one is excluded.
I might meet a sinner one day and a saint the next, or a rich man one week and a poor man the next. The newspaper is interested in everyone, because let’s be honest, we’re all part of the same community.
Not only do I love getting to meet with strangers, but I love the opportunity to go places that I wouldn’t go otherwise and to momentarily embed myself in ways of life that are foreign to me. It’s an incredible experience to embrace something new and unfamiliar, to go into looking at it objectively and aspire to learn as much as possible.
The fair, for example. Although I grew up in Newton, I had never gone to the Jasper County Fair in Colfax. I didn’t think I’d enjoy it much, and I never surrounded myself with many fairgoers.
I never grew up on a farm. In fact, I grew up a block from my elementary school, a gas station, a city park, and a grocery store. It was a great community, and living that close to so many places gave me easy access to practically anything I needed.
It defintely had its benefits.
But, the kids that attend the fair, who compete in the daily competitions, are 4H and FFA members, semed to live a little bit simplier. They are really good kids, not that city kids aren’t good.
They spend the entire week at the fair, working hard, tending to their animals, judging other competitions and enjoying their time together with friends and family. I noticed they were helpful, considerate, and honest — even to their peers.
They had integrity, and they were sincere and humble.
Maybe I’m just looking for a group of non-conforming adolescents in today’s society, or I’m blind from an outside perspective. Regardless, it was comforting to know a group of young people were so respectful.
Working at the newspaper is like going to a club fair on a college campus. There are hundreds of clubs, many you’ve never heard of before or never thought there were enough people interested in something to classify it as club.
But you walk by and visit and learn about why these people do what they do. If you go with your friends, you might feel the need to skip some club tables and go to the tables a majority of people go to, but when you’re alone, and working, you get to stop and experience each one, if only for a little while.
Anyway, I better get back to work. I wonder who I’ll meet today and what I’ll learn from them.