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All Points West: A community on the move
August 13, 2015 Frank Marquez   

Read more by Frank Marquez
While at church last Sunday, I listened to comments about the importance of community. What draws us together in the first place? Then, how do we end up doing more things as individuals? We are often distracted by TV and Social Media, and all the tools which we thought were somehow magic, but instead served only to bombard our psyche over several decades by becoming a sophisticated weapon of mass media destruction. I somehow miss Walter Cronkite and simple newscasts.

As I recall, the comments made by a fellow parishioner indicated we might be better off if we did more things together. As a part-time soldier, I’d have to say that’s true; we can do more as a team. I think the only thing I can’t do with someone is write this column.

Or, maybe, I could. I have yet to commit to working collaboratively or by committee on any of my writing projects. So far, a fellow creative writer has proposed writing a play together, something strictly experimental. Either way, I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Lest I go meandering off topic, the comments at church struck me as a common theme which strangely enough on Monday, appeared as less than evident, while a few friends, family members and I attended a concert at the Scotts Bluff County Fair on what was called Mexican Fiesta Night. It featured a band from Mexico. First, there were few people in the grandstand, and even fewer when the band began to play almost 90 minutes after the scheduled start time.

I wondered if fair organizers might make an appearance to give a warm welcome to concert goers on the fair’s opening night – seemed appropriate to me. Even though, the music genre didn’t appeal to a wide spectrum of west Nebraskans, I believed an entire county of people might have been the least bit curious to see what a Mexican Fiesta Night might have to offer. If this event catered to a partitioned few, how could it have drawn a wider range? Counting the number of Mexican restaurants throughout Gering and Scottsbluff, food might have been one of them.

As the week progressed, I felt better when I interviewed coaches from the Gering Wrestling Club – while the news was how seven club wrestlers came away with medals, the more important message was telling about the club’s purpose. Coaches Frank Ybarra and Mario Chavez have strived to make the club a valuable experience for many of our community’s young athletes. You’ve heard the expression, it takes a village? Or, “it keeps them out of trouble,” as my late Uncle Tony Marquez would say. Though the ‘village’ phrase might have been overused by civic and education leaders since the ’80s, it still holds true. Ybarra and Chavez talked about the cost of running the club. Though, the club holds fundraisers, supporting the club can’t be done alone. There’s a realization, the club may need larger partners to expand and streamline efforts. One way is to become an active up-front participant in the community. Last month, Ybarra with a few other coaches and wrestlers turned out to the United Way’s Rubber Duck Dash as volunteers. And, on Aug. 20, the club’s wrestlers may get a chance to volunteer again as ambassadors of their sport. Invited by Soroptimist International of Scotts Bluff County, wrestlers may get to see and listen to a live performance by Blues/Funk band Blinddog Smokin’ at Five Rocks Amphitheater, while they help with cleanup at the concert. Again, a community in action.

Most recently, on Saturday, my hope grew even more as scores of volunteers practiced their gardening and landscaping skills at an ongoing playground improvement project, one that has given Northfield Elementary School a facelift, and one that garnered the attention of Gov. Pete Ricketts, who will visit the school tomorrow, on Aug. 14. If some in our community had not worked together, there wouldn’t have been much for Ricketts to see.

Though involvement seems complicated, it’s not. At church, there was a volunteer sign-up sheet for Habitat for Humanity with only three names. I initially did not consider it because help was needed on Aug. 15, a day I will be on National Guard time in Iowa. As Habitat organizers plan a new date in September, I know what I’ll be doing.

There is nothing better than volunteering. One of my biggest chances was getting to do it in an Army uniform. During my tour in Afghanistan a few years back, I watched how Afghan families worked together and none of it involved cell phones, or watching football anytime from Friday through Monday. Your free time is your free time, or these days, how it’s often referred to as having a life. In Afghanistan, because things were a matter of life and death, there’s more of a sense of urgency and little time to watch TV or play video games ... well, you get the picture. During wartime, we needed each other. Community had real meaning.

These days, I’m hoping for more.
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