Happy Birthday America, Part 3

Written by Tony Mussari
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Copyright 2012, Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD
The Face of America Project
All Rights Reserved

The genius of the United States is not best or most in its executives or legislatures, nor in its ambassadors or authors or college presidents, or churches, or parlors, nor even in its newspapers or inventors, but always most in its common people.Sinclair Lewis

Giving What You’ve Got

During the past few months, Kitch and I have been spending a good deal of time at the Back Mountain Memorial Library. Kitch is a library person by habit and nature.  She has been a reader since her childhood.  It gives her great pleasure, and it fills her mind with beautiful thoughts.

During her battle with breast cancer, she made a bucket list.  Volunteering at our local library was the first item on that list. Once she received the “NED” diagnosis, she signed up to volunteer at the Slightly Read Bookstore. There she works with like-minded people who are determined to do what it takes to help the library maintain its high standard of community service and thrive during these difficult days of digital everything.

A few months ago, I was invited to become a board member. Without hesitation, I accepted.

Both Kitch and I are amazed by the quality of people we meet and the depth of their commitment, dedication and service to the library.

Ruth Tetschner is a retired educator, and library board member.  She came up with the idea for the bookstore in 1998. Her only credentials were intelligence, common sense, a good mind for business, the ability to set a good example and a very engaging way.

Today, she manages the store, and she supervises 32 volunteers who perform all of the necessary services to keep the store running. They are the sales staff, the maintenance staff, and the back-office workers who process the books and stock the shelves.  They do it all without noise or notice, and they have a wonderful time doing what they do. If you were looking for a classic example of community, these men and women perfectly fit that description.

Once a month, 19 members of the board meet with Librarian Martha Butler to discuss everything from finance and investment to policy and library operations.

As one of the three new members of the board, I have a steep learning curve. I spend most of my time listening and observing as the other members of the board share their insights and wisdom. It is a very impressive group of people who reflect the spirit of the Face of America at its best. They are generous with their time, and proactive in all the ways that matter.  Their discussions are civil and very thoughtful.  They are problem solvers, not problem creators. The atmosphere is positive and the outcomes are always productive.

The Auction

Every year the library sponsors an auction to raise money for the operating budget. In years past, Kitch and I always attended the auction, and one year we produced a Windsor Park Story about the event. When I joined the board, I thought I knew something about this event. Was I mistaken!

This is an undertaking like nothing I have ever experienced.  It demands a good deal of work every month of the year, and depends on the hard work and selfless service of an army of volunteers.

Recently I watched these men, women and children in action as they prepared the grounds for this year’s event. It was like watching a concert orchestra brilliantly perform a complicated composition.

Everyone had a job to do, a place to do it, and everyone performed their task flawlessly. As I hurriedly took pictures to capture this beautiful moment, all I could think of was Cleveland Amory’s famous quotation:

“What this world needs is a new kind of Army – The army of the kind.”

If you want to see America at its best, visit the Back Mountain Memorial Library, its Slightly Read Bookstore and its auction. You won’t be disappointed, and you will walk away believing that American treasures are in good hands when volunteers are incorporated into the lifeblood of its institutions.

Happy Birthday America

(To be continued)

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