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A day with the ballpark fryers is heaven

Published: Thursday, June 26, 2014 11:16 a.m. CDT

When I go to the softball field, I’m the designated fryer. At the concession stand, I keep the parents, players and patrons fed with their little league pizza pockets, tenderloins and french fries. I love hearing the crackle of the fryer oil nearly meld with the crack of a bat from the fields outside the concession stand and the sudden accompanying roar of the crowd as one of their young stars gets a base hit. It really is the quintessential American Saturday.

I volunteer at the North Des Moines Softball Complex. My girlfriend played on those diamonds throughout her childhood and last year decided to give back by coaching a group of 7-, 8- and 9-year-olds. She loves teaching the girls fundamentals. Hitting the “Peonies” grounders, pop-flies and deadballs gives her an appreciation for those who taught her to play the game. At 23 years old, coaching has helped her with patience and bolstered her sense of purpose in a world increasingly defined by what one possesses versus what one gives.

I started by just going to her games, but by season’s end, I found myself with a glove and ball right beside her. It’s hard to sit and observe when someone you care about is giving so much. Volunteerism is contagious.

There are plenty of organizations that survive on the help and generosity of others, and in many cases, donating one’s time is just as beneficial as writing a check. Shelters, schools and food pantries are always in need of volunteers to plan and execute activities. Perhaps the local Habitat for Humanity could use an extra worker to pound nails for a day, or Big Brothers Big Sisters needs another quality mentor.

But volunteerism doesn’t have to be sanctioned by an organization. It can be as simple as knocking on a neighbor’s door and asking if they could use a hand with those pesky weeds plaguing their garden or making sure a homeless person finds a meal one evening. It could be as easy as asking the elderly lady at the fuel pump next to you if she could use a hand with the nozzle or helping someone who is disabled hang a Christmas light display to join the neighborhood celebration.

If you’re able, I highly recommend looking for ways to give back. Even in our small little corner of Iowa, there are people in our communities who could use a helping hand. Knock on your neighbor’s door, walk down to the public library or go to the ball game and hear your own crack of the bat.

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