‘If you want something done right, you have to do it together’
I was the worst kind of teenager.
I had a sophomoric attitude, a touch of God complex, an inexplicable bitterness towards society, and all these things tended to make me antisocial. I would get into arguments on topics I didn’t understand and vehemently stick to my side. My parents found me infuriating, and they told me so on more than one occasion.
It was that stage in my life where I thought I knew everything, except I was too foolish to recognize how much there was that I didn’t know.
I have since been told that my attitude in my teenage years isn’t too far off the norm for a lot of American kids these days.
Maybe it’s something linked to puberty, I don’t know. But a side effect of my mindset was that I was very critical. It wasn’t constructive criticism, either. Once, when my mother was discussing the incompetence of a local political figure, I suggested she should run for the office instead of whining; hardly a helpful suggestion.
I was, and sometimes still am, harsh and judgmental, though I now realize how unproductive that is. So many things are more complicated than they seem.
If people don’t understand my job and how hard I try, I am sure others feel the same way in their professions. Getting tangible and visible accomplishments can be a serious challenge depending on your line of work.
It’s very easy to stand on the outside and be critical of a system that isn’t even fully comprehended by the most apt and involved individuals, i.e., you have to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.
The internet doesn’t always help either. A person can get online and rant about a perceived injustice, without being particularly accountable or factual in what they’re saying.
Sometimes a person with a grievance only airs it on the internet. Where’s the usefulness in that? It’s perfectly natural for individuals to become disgruntled over happenings, but some never actually confront these issues with thoughtful concern, constructive criticism or potential solutions. Nothing gets better that way.
There’s another side to this, too. I think back to the fable of the little red hen, or perhaps if you prefer, the ant and the grasshopper. In both stories, the heroes never receive assistance in their tasks; the other characters always skive off and enjoy the present. In the end the heros accomplish the tasks all by themselves. They are exhausted and alone, especially when the other characters literally starve.
What a lesson to drive into a kid’s head. I never wanted to be the ant or the grasshopper.
I believe that there’s a balance between the hypercritical “everyone is incompetent” attitude and the borderline self-martyrdom of “if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.” Complaining about everything without taking steps to be involved is useless. Overburdening yourself in an attempt to have ultimate control is also more likely to end in disaster.
Instead of adopting a reluctant acceptance about the whole thing, we can both ask for and offer help.
The Rifle Rendezvous was a good example of this put into practice. The board members of the event took action by both doing things themselves and also knowing when to ask for help.
Everyone I’ve talked to agreed that the 20th year of the festival was well attended, well enjoyed and overall the best in recent memory.
I remember talking with Rebecca Maloney, Rifle Rendezvous event coordinator, as she was first explaining the festival to me.
When she first attended after moving to Rifle, she had no idea that the event was organized and executed by volunteers exactly like her. After learning that, she got involved and today she is a powerful force that helped take the lead to put on a signature event for the city of Rifle. It’s a testament to what is achievable.
Being involved in something so worthwhile doesn’t usually pay, not financially anyway. It takes a lot of time, hard work and knowing when to ask for help. I think people like Rebecca do it because they believe in it.
Suppose Rebecca just sat in the stands year after year at the Rifle Rendezvous complaining about the festival. Both she and Rifle would have been worse off for the wasted potential. Instead, she embraced the opportunity wholeheartedly and got involved.
If I were talking to teenage me now, I would have a few choice words, the primary of which would be to stop the attitude.
Aside from that, I would point to a quote from an individual far more knowledgeable than me: Margaret Mead.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
However, I would temper that with the fact that it’s really OK to ask for help. So here’s an update on the old adage: If you want something done right, you have to do it together.
Cathleen Anthony is a member of the AmeriCorps Volunteers In Service To America branch and the assistant for the Greater Rifle Improvement Team. She can be reached at 970-665-6496 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
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