I often find myself at community events, expos and all kinds of fun events interacting with the public – sometimes through my work, sometimes it’s with one of the organizations where I volunteer. Maybe I’m just a spectator. Even as many times as I’ve gone to these events, and despite my saying I won’t be surprised at anything… I usually am. Sometimes, even when I think I’ve seen it all, I’m surprised by the mish-mash of people I see at these events. The people watching isn’t quite as good as what you find at an airport – that’s a blog post for another day soon – but it’s still pretty interesting, and one of the things I really get a kick out of. I love the observation almost as much as actually talking with people to hear their stories.
Depending on the event, you may have anything from moms and kids, business attendees picking up a stress ball, retirees replenishing their personal stashes of pens, note pads, key chains and such. There’s sometimes the student crowd who are there for extra points in some class AND to snag a power bank or car charger if they find one, assuming they haven’t been cleaned out by the previous groups. I really do appreciate when community members support these events – it sure makes the day more interesting.
As my grandfather said, it takes all kinds to make the world go ’round, and you can find a lot of those kinds at these community events. Depending on the purpose of the event, you might find fun costumes (our city does a completely delightful caterpillar parade to celebrate spring, and you are likely to find butterflies and all sorts of costumes… awesome), politicians stumping with speeches (GREAT people watching), people passing out the aforementioned goodies, and people “trick or treating” for said goodies – just there to take whatever they can get.
The takers/getters intrigue me; they may or may not even WANT the items they’re grabbing, but they snag whatever is available for the taking. My mind wanders as I’m watching this go down: is this what they do in other areas of their lives? Or are they giddy and caught up in the euphoria of the goodies? Perhaps they’ve discovered the answers to life’s great questions lie in a nifty stylus pen or a funeral home fan with just enough firmness to not flip & flop as they furiously wave it? I’ll grant you this from personal experience – at summer events across the Deep South, a good funeral home fan is the answer to at least one of life’s great questions…can I create enough of a breeze so that I don’t pass out of heat exhaustion before I get to my car and turn the A/C on MAX? (and the answer is just barely)
I guess the personal growth nugget for me here is that watching the “getters” is sort of a metaphor for life, in a weird way. They are so busy “getting” that they are never satisfied with what they got, because they’ve already moved on to the next “get.” There’s not time to enjoy the squishy stress ball because the next shiny object is already in view at the next booth. Oooooh, I need to get that pack of tomato seeds – check. Free bottle of water – check, and can I get an extra?
Sidebar: let me offer a little color on the tomato seeds. Anyone who knows me knows I LOATHE the mushy wretchedness of a tomato. Blech. So if I picked up your tomato seeds, I am 100% in “getter” mode… or I wasn’t wearing my reading glasses, and I totally think I picked up something else. Boy, am I going to be surprised when I get home – and NOT in a good way. My nose is wrinkled as I type this – just thinking about them grosses me out!
Okay, back to my bits, here. I hope I’m at least cultivating an attitude of contentment and gratitude along with those tomatoes. Otherwise, the frenzied hunting & gathering leaves no time to appreciate the fruits of the labor. It’s always about the next “get,” valuable or not. Sort of a twisted keeping score where whomever collects the most trinkets wins, even if sometimes they ultimately don’t.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s not that I think drive and ambition are bad things. They’re not. I hope I achieve some measure of balance in the grand scheme of things. Because, when the “getting” is over and I’ve made it home with 2 bottles of water, a pack of tomato seeds and 3 notepads from the local banks and realtors, did I just take what was there to get? Or did I also take time to gather and get what I really needed from the day – which, honestly, often has more to do with the interesting people than their things.