2006-07-03 Holland Sentinel "Despite disagreements, we can work together"

Despite disagreements, we can work together
The Holland Sentinel

It has been nearly two months since the end of our celebration around that Turkish flower that came here via the Netherlands. Those of us who were even remotely connected to Tulip Time proudly listened as our visitors were told how Reader's Digest selected this festival as one of the finest of its kind in America. And it was mentioned in the same breath that the selection had largely to do with the number of volunteers helping out -- some 7,000 in all.

One of the truly remarkable and unique things about our Holland area is the dedicated spirit of giving back to the community. It is obvious in the gifts from the well-to-do but even more so, the community is bonded and strengthened by the unseen and unheralded contributions and gifts of time and talent by literally thousands of us "littler" people. Tulip Time is only about 10 days long (and takes an entire year to plan), but there are other ongoing things here that also make this place special. Some involve the efforts of people forming and being active in organizations dedicated to harmony, learning and friendship between peoples of different backgrounds, organizations such as Latin Americans United for Progress, the Alliance for Cultural and Ethnic Harmony, Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance, Habitat for Humanity and the many advocacy groups for persons with special needs. I know there are more, but please forgive me for not mentioning them all.

There are unheralded and uncalled-for gifts from dedicated people such as one who might work "part-time" for a nonprofit organization (40 to 50 hours some weeks) and then donates his or her salary back to that same group. Dedication. Commitment.

An overriding sentiment, and one that sits well with me, is not to ask, "How little can I get by with?" but instead the attitude exhibited is, "How much more can I do to help?" Unselfishness.

Evergreen Commons and the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Holland could not function a day without volunteer workers. Our schools -- public, private and charter -- could not function well without volunteers. Our places of worship could not conduct their important ministries without the volunteer involvement of membership. Our community performing groups, such as Ballet Folklorico, Youth Orchestra, Holland Symphony, Holland Chorale, Holland Area Arts Council, Evergreen Commons Chorale, school drama and music groups, Civic Theater, school robotics teams and athletics could not exist without volunteer assistance. This is an incredibly vital community.

And for those who volunteer, what do they get in return? Obviously they get a much nicer community and the key component in that is the development of human relationships. They might begin as task-oriented but often evolve as more. Positive relationships are the links that hold us together.

As a Tulip Time Trolley guide, I have met some wonderful people who came here to visit and to whom I could sing the praises of our area, but not in an arrogant way that tries to out-do their hometowns.

This is a time of international and even domestic challenges, of unprecedented polarized political feelings even among many of us here. Pundits on TV are yelling at one another throughout each day. Writers pen their passionate letters of caring, anger and disappointment to the editors of our newspapers. Yet it is so refreshing that we can still get ourselves on track and work TOGETHER at a grass-roots level in our community. And just maybe, we can learn from that and apply it on a larger scale. This potential is reason enough to celebrate our nation's birthday tomorrow.

Happy Birthday, America!

Jack Hyde is a resident of Park Township. He can be reached at jack@wmol.com.