It all began when I joined the Cub Scouts. Belonging to a group was a new idea for me. I was now a member of a Pack and we had an obligation to help one another. Later when I joined the Boy Scouts, the idea of being part of a group was even more consequential.
I learned a lot from my father about being a joiner. Coming from a small town and being a banker, he was encouraged to join groups because every group needs a treasurer. He didn’t mind. He realized the relationship between the banking business and contributing to the community. He was a founding member of the Waterville Sportsman Club, served on the Commercial Club for many years, helped get a nursing home in town, was a Boy Scout volunteer, school board member, veteran, and later on in life, was a long-time member of the Cemetery Board where, of course, he was the treasurer. He was also heavily involved in his church and, again, for many years, was the treasurer and sang in the choir into his late 80s.
My father never complained about being too involved, he looked at it as his civic duty. He realized that if he wanted to help his community grow, he couldn’t just sit there and do nothing. He still, however, realized his family came first.
My mother was involved but not quite as much. Women were not supposed to get involved in those days. They were kept out of Lions, Rotary, Toastmasters and many other organizations. Still, my mother found ways to help. She was a gracious volunteer with Meals on Wheels, the Ladies Aid at her church, the PTA and was even a Den Mother for a short time. Naturally, she was a good mother.
I recently had the opportunity to attend a meeting of The League of Women Voters. The group was founded in 1920 by Carrie Chapman Catt. Six months earlier the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified giving women the right to vote. It took them 72 years of hard work to bring women’s suffrage. This year marks the 100 anniversary of the League of Women Voters. If anyone ever deserved a 21-gun salute, it would be them. It was groups like these that paved the way for women’s rights.
Today the League of Women Voters works in a nonpartisan fashion to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to vote. Yes, we still, believe it or not, have rules that restrict people from voting. And, yes, men also can take part in the league. There is a chapter in Bemidji. I am proud to say that they also support the 100% movement. Why? They realize that people with a high school diploma are more likely to vote and they are more likely to make informed decisions.
What is so great about getting off the couch and becoming a joiner? As anyone can tell you who belongs to one or more of a myriad of organizations in the area, you just feel better about yourself knowing that you are part of the solution. Some of these organizations have dues, which may prohibit you from joining but for as many organizations that have dues, there are just as many that don’t.
We are always debating about bringing back the draft. Personally, I think, the draft or some form of community service is a great idea. Remember the Job Corps? We still have AmeriCorps. And then there is the Peace Corps, which, by the way, is still very active.
Can you get too involved? Sure and this is the tricky part. How do you know when you are too involved? I think when you no longer can provide the care for your family that is needed, you are too involved and you have to step back.
Why should you be a joiner if you aren’t already? Here are five good reasons. 1. You will feel better about yourself. 2. You will have a greater sense of purpose in life. 3. Our communities can’t improve unless you get out there to help them improve. 4. You will be using the skills that the Creator gave you to help others. 5. It will open up new windows of opportunities for you. All of these are guaranteed to happen.
If you have some time, read more about Carrie Catt. She was born in Ripon, Wis., but attended school in Charles City, Iowa. She graduated from Iowa State and served as superintendent of schools in Mason City, Iowa. She was one of the first women to be featured on the cover of Time magazine (1926). She passed away in 1947. She has some advice for all of us: “Roll up your sleeves, set your mind to making history, and wage such a fight for liberty that the whole world will respect our sex.” The fight still continues not only for women but for everyone. So, if your sleeves aren’t rolled up already, how about it?
Riddle: Imagine you are in a room filling up with water. There are no windows or doors. How do you get out? (Answer: Stop imagining.) I forgot to mention that joining a group will increase your power of imagination because every group looks for new ideas and the next one may come from you.
So far, 364 community organizations support the 100% movement. Recent joiners are: Red Lake Realty, League of Women Voters and the Indigenous Environmental Network. If your organization has not been contacted and you would like to join the movement, please call John at (218) 766-9009.
We can help our youth graduate when we:
- Encourage them to participate in activities that involve helping others.
- Do our best to help our young people stay committed once they do join a group.
- Share with them about the groups we belong to.
John R. Eggers of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.