Old dogs can learn new tricks

Some of the nearly 100 teenagers putting together the basics for future meals, for Rise Against Hunger.

Clyde Wills | Metropolis Planet

I hope that I still learn something new every day.

There is, of course, so much new to learn, and a limited amount of time in which to do it. Much can be learned on the Internet if a person looks in the right places. I find I learn a great deal listening to public radio at 91.3 or watching the public television programs. But sometimes you just have to be in the right place at the right time and take part in a new experience.

Such was the case two weeks ago when I attended the district Rotary conference in Mount Vernon. I don't usually attend conferences because I have spent too much of my life sitting in classes, meetings and listening to others talk. In my old age, sometimes my butt says no more.

But, I went to this one because the Metropolis Rotary was the host club, and I was obligated to help out. I am certainly glad I took the time to attend because in one of the sessions I saw something very amazing. I witnessed about 100 volunteers, most of them teenagers, put together the basics for future meals, for Rise Against Hunger.

This project was not brand-new to others, it has been done at several other Rotary functions in the past. And it's not something that can just be thrown together. It took a great deal of advance planning.

So here is how that works. There are only a few ingredients that have to be placed in plastic bags for basic meals. About five or six people were placed around each table where the ingredients were waiting. On the table were measuring spoons, plastic bags, and the ingredients. One volunteer held open the gallon size plastic bag while another one dumped the prescribed amount of rice. Someone else dropped in an allotment of ground soy meal. Also included was a small plastic bag of vitamins to be added when cooking, and cooking instructions.

There may have been some other magic ingredients, but I'm not sure because I was in the back of the room helping box the bags to be shipped to a Third World country to save children who might otherwise starve.

The operation was like a very basic industry. Each person at each table only had one job and did it over and over. Every person learned to do his or her job very quickly. So how many meals could 100 volunteers prepare in 2 to 3 hours? The answer is 20,000.

To make a project like this work so well, it takes adults who have experienced it before, and willing workers. In our case the willing workers included exchange students from other countries and high school students who are members of Interact, a youth organization sponsored by the Rotary clubs.

We have something like it here with the Weekend Blessings food project.

Just think how many other projects could be accomplished with the same formula.

Same voice, different price

Way back in 1964, Carolyn and I were attending the University of Kentucky. As students, we attended basketball and football games for free since we paid a small activities fee at the beginning of the semester.

Memorial Coliseum was also a place where we could see big name singers at a very low cost. One we both remember very well was Johnny Mathis. We think the student price for tickets was $3.50 each.

There were no transportation costs since I just walked to Carolyn's dorm and then two blocks to the coliseum. Of course, Johnny Mathis performed a magnificent concert. It was one of the greatest bargains of all time.

Although Mathis is almost 85 years old, we saw him again Saturday night at the Schermerhorn concert hall with the Nashville Symphony. Again it was a great concert. Apparently avoiding cigarettes and drugs, Mathis has kept his body and voice in great shape for his age.

Old hits like "Misty", "Chances Are" and "It's Not For Me to Say," as well as new upbeat songs, were included. I don't know how many songs Johnny has recorded, but he has produced 80 albums.

As a very successful track and field athlete in college, Mathis was waiting for a call to try out for the Olympics when Columbia Records called first. So music won out.

Carolyn and I didn't get the $3.50 deal this time. With the expensive tickets, dinner, travel to Nashville, downtown parking and a motel room, only the songs seemed the same.

Over the years since 1964 Carolyn has occasionally reminded me that during all the romantic songs at the first Mathis concert, I never held her hand.

This time I did.

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