Where are the Marion citizens?

The 9/11 memorial mural in Liberty Park is finally getting a long-neglected facelift, thanks to a woman from Durham who volunteered to do it.

KWCH followed up on our story about her Saturday, and the first comment underneath the video on the station’s website was a question about why a Durham woman was fixing a Marion mural: “Where are the Marion citizens?”

If the camera had been pointed elsewhere it would have shown how many Marion citizens volunteer in other areas, chief among them as firefighters and emergency medical technicians.

St. Luke Auxiliary Shoppe is run by volunteers. Chingawassa Days and summer youth baseball wouldn’t exist if not for committed volunteers. This column is too short to list them all.

Yet the youth center struggles to get enough volunteers to remain open. An annual cleanup day at Marion Reservoir draws few volunteers. Outside a small committed core group, few people are engaged with the Marion PRIDE committee.

The mural has needed attention for years, serving more as visual representation of the fractured politics of the country than as a patriotic tribute to the victims of 9/11 and Iraq war soldiers. It’s a hard question, but it’s a fair one: Where are the Marion citizens, as patriotic a group as could be found anywhere?

To answer that, consider a primary motivator of volunteerism: how connected people feel to a cause. Mural-painting volunteer Joy Waldbauer has a son who served in the Iraq war. Her passion to honor all those who served is the reason she’s driving from the northwest corner of the county to volunteer in Marion.

The mural’s origin in 2001 was the vision of a few individuals, supported by financial contributions from many others. Roughly 100 people attended the dedication. Thirteen years later, images of burning towers and tanks rolling into Iraq have faded from our collective daily consciousness. Our connection to the people and the events the mural memorializes isn’t as strong as it once was, faded enough that the mural fell into decay.

A lack of connectedness may also explain volunteer shortages in other areas. Do you feel connected to the youth center, for example, or is it a cause only for those who use it?

The solution to volunteer shortages is obvious, but hardly simple. People must care about things in the community beyond their own personal interests, and care at a level at which they’re willing to redirect time, talents, and energy from their regular daily lives to volunteer. Anyone who has a sure-fire formula for that can get rich selling it.

Where are the Marion citizens? We’re right here, and rightfully proud of the many dedicated volunteers who make our town a better place to live. Other towns would be lucky to have them, and we owe them our thanks.

But there’s always a need for more, and there’s no time like the present to lend a helping hand. Why not volunteer for something outside of your box, as little or as much as you can? We’ll all be better for it, including you.

— DAVID COLBURN

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