I’d like to share with you my story of the jar of marshmallow fluff. You know the stuff, that small jar of white, sticky goodness that only ever was used for Thanksgiving dinner when I was a child. My mother would mash yams with butter and brown sugar, then top them with apple pie filling, and then marshmallow fluff. Completely healthy right? Well we never seemed to use the whole jar, so the partially used jar would go live in the back of the pantry. Now my mother’s pantry is as deep as a normal closet, so neglected food items have a tendency to hang out in the dark recesses and never see the light of day again.
One night in the fall of 2003, I decided to cook dinner for my parents. I opened the pantry to see what was available……..that turned into a treasure hunt to see what canned item was the oldest. The winner was clearly the bulging can of chicken ala king from 1978 (the year we moved into the house). Anyone hungry for some botulism with a side of rice?
Anyway, I also came across the forgotten jar of marshmallow fluff dated 1984. Do you know what happens to 19-year-old fluff? It separates into two distinct layers: the corn syrup layer and the layer of unidentified white stuff. Yum. Too bad that this predated the days of smart phones or there would be a photo to share.
Now for the $1000 question: Why am I sharing the marshmallow fluff separation story? Well, let me tell you why. I got off my sorry butt and on Tuesday night, attended the monthly meeting for my local dressage chapter. We are a small group, but there are some very dedicated people who keep things running. And there are suckers like me that volunteer to be acting secretary because I felt guilty that I’d been so lazy for the past couple of years. While at the meeting, I heard a story that saddened me. It involved some members who were supposed to be working together, but things spiraled the wrong way, plans fell apart and the two factions separated…just like the marshmallow fluff. Unfortunately, no amount of stirring was going to correct things in time for the group activity. What a shame. In smaller organizations, the breakdown of communication and teamwork can really hurt the organization as a whole. I was not involved, so I know none of the specifics. I just hope that going forward that everyone can put those feelings aside and remember why we joined this organization: our love of horses and the sport of dressage.
Equestrian sports might be a multi-million dollar industry, but there would be no shows without volunteers. From the small local shows to the World Equestrian Games, volunteers keep the show wheels turning. There has to be someone to set up the show grounds, to beg companies to donate prizes and sponsor the classes, to keep the riders in the warm up ring up-to-date on their classes, or to sit for hours on end writing down the judge’s scores and comments. Let’s give a big round of applause for the folks who are on the cross country course at each of the jumps rain or shine, those who are the runners or gate keepers, and those who sit in a windowless room calculating the scores as quickly as possible. I coordinated volunteers for four years – it can be like herding cats – challenging, frustrating, and rewarding all at the same time. There is no better feeling than when the show is over and all the ribbons have been handed out, to hear a thank you from a competitor for an enjoyable day. That is what keeps you motivated to do it again and again.
So the next time you are at odds with another member of your association, take a moment, breathe deeply, and ask yourself, “Do you want to be one of the layers of the old marshmallow fluff or a well-blended jar of sugary goodness?”
p.s. Ike and I have our lesson tomorrow…work and weather played havoc with our riding this week and delayed our weekly tune up.