Ch.237 Ron, the Lions Club Member

Ch.237 Ron, the Lions Club Member

Feb. 2024

          I was at my Lions Club meeting last night where Bill, a long-time member of the club, suggested we make a donation to Vickie’s son Joey: “He needs a special lift so he can get in their car.” There was a pause and then the inevitable follow-up discussion: “Who is Vicky?” “What’s her last name?”; “You know, she’s Jerry’s son.”; “Jerry Jorgenson?”; “Yep.” “Oh, I know who you mean. That Joey, he’s a good kid.”; “And they could use some help. Those lifts are expensive.”; “Let’s’ give him a couple hundred dollars.”; “Oh, maybe a little more.” “$250?” “OK.” “Do we need to make a motion?”; “No, but we’ll put it in minutes.”

          No vote necessary. Unanimity reigns. Everybody knows everybody in Strum, WI.

          When I was in graduate school in sociology at Purdue university, 50 years ago, the scholar Robert K. Merton published a theory that people could be divided into two groups, the “cosmopolites” and the “localites.” Cosmopolites considered themselves world citizens and believed that humans were developing world-wide values and ethics. Localites, by contrast, treasured the unique aspects of individual communities. At a more personal level, cosmopolites tended to develop friendships over a wide geographical area; their best friends might live on another continent. Localites stuck to their communities for friendships; their best bud might live next door.

          Back then, I thought of myself as a cosmopolite. I was a little disdainful of what people called “small town life,” which to me smacked of provincialism (I know, I was arrogant, but’s I was young).

          Then we moved to rural Wisconsin about 30 years ago, settling in on 7 acres near the small cities of Strum and Eleva, with a combined population of 1,600. And slowly, I became a localite. Joining the Lions was the ultimate step. Ice fishing contests. Delivering eye tissue from the local hospitals to the big city. Just last week I designed a “Citizen of the Year” contest so we Lions could honor particularly generous community people.

          My participation in the Lions dropped to zero as Pat deteriorated. Even so, when she died, several members came for her funeral. I realized then that I would be welcomed back if I so chose. It took almost a year of occasional attendance before I was ready to dive back in, but now I get to every meeting. Last night’s session focused upon our upcoming Ice Fishing contest on Crystal Lake. Unfortunately, the lake currently has almost no ice on it, due to this winter’s unusually warm and dry weather. Cancellation, though, was out of the question. The contest is an important community event. Anyhow, we still could stock up the indoor tank for kids to fish and we could serve food and, of course, beer (Only 5 brands this year, though).

          In some ways I’ll never be a real citizen of Strum, WI. I’d have to have been born here to qualify. I’d have to be Christian, not raised in the Jewish faith. I’d have to work with my hands and tools, not with fingers and keyboards. Oh, well. I’ll settle for partial membership. It means a lot to me to have a place in this network of people who all know each other and, most importantly, care for one another. It’s especially important to me since Pat’s death, that sense of belonging to something greater than myself.