Playlist Memories: Joliet Jaycees, Illinois, 2004

Music has been the theme of my last few posts. I haven’t begun to scratch the surface on how music has played a role in my life or nonprofit-y dreams, so I’ll continue on this train of thought.

Most of my close friends know I have a very strange and eclectic music collection. I’m just as likely to hear Handel as I am Muse if I venture a random song selection.

Today my randomization led me to Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy. If you’re not a country fan, it’s something you might still appreciate because it’s just fun. A song for parties to be sure, but for me it took on an unusual and unexpected significance.

As Big & Rich kicked off the first few measures, a distant memory flooded in. There it was–the first time I’d heard this song–amidst the revelry of new friends and a service project on one of the stops along the cross-country volunteering-and-acts-of-kindness road trip I took with my best friend Heather. We were in Joliet, not far from Chicago, Illinois, at a charity spaghetti dinner we’d volunteered to serve at to help out the local young professionals’ civic club: the Joliet Jaycees.

We were strangers in this city and at the dinner hall where we were volunteering; we were strangers in most places throughout our entire 2.5 month trip. There might have been some level of anxiety about this fact had we not been so welcomed with open arms by the Joliet Jaycees. We were there to serve and help out their cause, but we’d leave with more than just good feelings about having done so – we’d leave with new friends.

Heather, myself, and Shane (who’d left his home in Chicago at this point to accompany us on our volunteer-quest) slopped spaghetti heap after spaghetti heap onto plates during what had so far been a tame event. Then came Big & Rich.

Dum dede dum, dede dum, dede dum, dede dum, dede dum dum…

We heard a few women across the room shriek in delight. Looking over, we saw as several Jaycees members grabbed chairs and began dancing on and around them. Some laughed, others joined in, and before long the song had made giggling children out of these grown adults. My friends and I looked to them in their silliness and joy and felt a connection. These people weren’t strangers we were volunteering alongside. They were human beings with a common passion for doing good and we were part of them, if only for the night.

Here we are with some of our new-found friends:

Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy isn’t about women going crazy over ‘rustic’ men–Well, maybe it is, a little(!). But I will always remember it as that song that gave me the chance to see some strangers as fellow fun-havers and do-gooders. They were regular people, having fun doing good.

That’s what volunteers are.

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