Traditions, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

A fiddler on the roof. Sounds crazy, no?

The strength of many schools, churches and community organizations lies in its rituals and traditions.  They provide a constancy that is reassuring to students, members, alumni.  While traditions may seem a bit crazy to some, to most they are cherished as part of their heritage.  Those who do not honor tradition are likely to incur the wrath of those who want to find comfort and solace in the reassure that traditions may bring.

When traditions remain constant throughout the years, they begin to bring identity to organizations.  The school, recreation program, and community center become known for their special features and regular activities.  Identity leads to purpose and purpose leads to dedication and commitment.  Maintaining what you have been good at through the years is important to gathering loyalty.

And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you
in one word… Tradition.Fiddler 73

Consider the years you went to elementary school or high school.  If you should return to those institutions you are likely to ask if the have the same tournaments and games.  You may ask about the basketball, football or baseball teams.  You may want to know if the school still has the Arts Festival, Chorale and Band concerts.  You may be interested in whether the big annual show is still produced, whether you were actually a part of the shows or not.  These were traditions and you want to know if they are still alive.

Because of our traditions, we’ve kept our balance for many, many years.

Long lasting and enjoyable traditions will find support in parents and alumni.  Just as everyone wants to feel that they have a purpose and identity, they also want to see that their schools, parks and community organizations maintain an identity and purpose as well.

While some graduates may always feel that their years, their programs and participation were the best years of a school or organization, they will nonetheless support an organization with their word of mouth praises, and perhaps even their dollars, in order to keep the traditions alive.

Because of our traditions, everyone knows who he is and what God expects him to do.

It is true that some remain a part of their school or recreational program throughout their entire lives.  As students become young adults and then parents, they may feel it important to maintain a relationship to those places that were important to them when they were young.  They may even wish to send their children to these same schools and programs.  That it how strong the bond of tradition can be.

In this past week, a former community resident passed away at the age of 90.  From the time I was a child at the local Boys Club until just a few years ago, this dedicated woman was always at the carnivals, festivals, and fund-raisers of all sorts.  It was her passion to be a part of the traditional events each year.  The value of her volunteer service can not be calculated.  The importance of the traditions she helped to maintain was something beyond measure, to her and everyone who knew her.

Unfortunately, leadership comes along in the life of some schools and community groups that does not understand the importance of what they have.  They set about changing things for no other reason than change.  These types of people can quickly tear down what took generations to build.  A decade of bad leadership can wipe out a lifetime of good will and dedication.

When I returned to alumni events in recent years, I was disheartened to see the lack of concern for the past.  It is not that we were better than anyone else, but it is that we had identity in our long cherished events.  For our school, it was the Fine Arts.  The Fine Arts meant nothing to recent leaders which was disheartening to many of us.

When you walk the halls of an old and venerable institution, you like to see the pictures, trophies, art work and sayings of the past.  It is discouraging to know that the school song is unimportant, the traditions are gone and the leadership is oblivious to its importance.  When someone takes away your tradition and legacy, it is time to move on.

Tradition. Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as… as a fiddler on the roof!


Do You Have The Time? by Rich Paschall

There are plenty of community organizations that will grab your time, it only you let them.  They want you for a variety of tasks and the really organized organizers will stalk you if they think you will volunteer for something.  They want you to stuff envelopes, sell tickets, make phone calls, sit at booths and sell things.  They will have you directing traffic, ushering people, handing out programs.  You can go to meetings, answer email, talk on the phone, spend hours of your precious time in pursuit of the organizational mission, whatever that might be.

But what if you do not have the time for this?  After all, if you are part of a family crew, you may have to drive little Johnny or Suzy to soccer practice, karate lessons, football practice, baseball practice, cheerleading practice, dance class, piano lessons, drum and bugle corps, or basketball games.  If they are young, it is pre-school or grade school or day care or after school care.  If they are older it is still sports, music, dances, proms, band, drama, speech and please, drop them at the corner so no one knows their mommy is still driving them around.

Of course, there are all the adult requirements too.  There are the weddings and showers, wakes and funerals.  As we get older, there are more of the latter.  There are dances and parties we don’t want to attend and family events for which you must make your famous __________ (insert dish name here).  It all keeps us so very busy.  How dare these “organizers” presume to prevail upon our precious time?

Yet, these various events you are driving the beloved little ones (or not so-little ones) around to are probably staffed by volunteers.  Adults, and a handful of older kids, are taking tickets, selling refreshments,. selling t-shirts, directing people around events.  They are running for ice, and pop and cups and napkins.  They are getting mustard and ketchup. They are making emergency runs to Costco or Sam’s Club so they do not run out of water or buns or napkins.  In other words, they are making everything possible that you and little Johnny and Suzy are attending.

As a staff member at a community organization for a few years, and for a private school a few others, I know what it is like to have to run events, dependent on volunteers who may or may not show up.  Fortunately, most are dedicated and in their places when the time comes.

Yes, that's me on the left, getting rained on for the cause.

Yes, that’s me on the left, getting rained on for the cause.

While some organizations pressure the parents of the children who participate to volunteer.  Many others are reliant on the good will of neighbors and friends.  While many don’t know it, the events they attend throughout the year might not be there if there were no volunteers.  In fact, some community organizations die for lack of volunteer spirit.  A founder of one community organization here said many decades after the organization he began was up and running, that perhaps it should die if the community was not willing to come forward and support it.  They in fact gave up some large events for lack of volunteers.

Here I could give you the “social contract” type speech.  You know the one.  If you are part of the community, you must give up something in order to reap the benefits of community activities.  That something you must give up is your time.  I know that is hard to do in this day and age.  After all we must get home to check our facebook and twitter accounts.  We must look at Instagram and snapchat.  We must check Messenger and Skype.  Then there is Pinterest, StumbleUpon and You Tube, Vimeo and Vivo.

What enriches our lives is what we invest in.  If we invest in our community and its events, then we are richer too.  The volunteer spirit does not necessarily lead to dull and boring jobs.  Instead it can lead to knowing your neighbors.  You could be learning about the organization to which you and your children participate.  It can open new avenues to friendship in the community in which you live.  It can give you an understanding of what it takes to make a community.

Hillary Clinton famously said “It Takes A Village,” from the African Proverb that it take a village to raise a child.  In fact, it takes a community, a good community, to raise a child.  The only way a community can be good and strong, is with the volunteer spirit of its residents.  Are you going to give up an occasional Saturday at some event or sports bar to aid your community, or will you just let someone else do it?  If you choose the later, then I remind you of the philanthropist who suggested that it might be better to let a community organization die, if the community was unwilling to support it.



Visiting the oncologist if you forgot the Kindle but brought a camera …

A visit to one’s oncologist … the routine kind of visit when you haven’t got any deeply disturbing new symptoms and your best hope is that nobody finds anything the least bit interesting and you get to go home with all the same pieces you had on arrival. A visit after which no one calls to say you need to come back for more tests. The “normal” visits everyone who survives cancer hates, but figure as long as they stay boring, that’s good. “Survivor” as we all know, means “not dead yet,” and that’s the way we want it to remain. Whatever else is wrong with us, as long as the bottom line is “I’m alive!!” we are happy campers, or as close to happy as you can be when one of your primary doctors is an oncologist.


Yesterday was a deferred, re-scheduled quarterly visit.

And wouldn’t you know it, I forgot to stuff my Kindle into my bag. The lab took forever and the only tech they have who can find my good vein was off. I have only one usable vein. If you miss it, good luck finding another that will yield enough blood to run the tests.

The day had gotten off to a roaring start, as it so often does, because we got stuck behind one of the areas super slow drivers. Being as our roads are one lane in each direction, stuck is stuck. Naturally, whoever they were, they were going exactly where we were going … the Milford Medical complex — Milford Hospital and our local Dana Farber outpost. We  tried not to start honking the horn or acting  crazy.

It happens every time we have to go somewhere and need to be there at a particular time. I’m not sure how they know we’re coming, but that 25 mph driver is waiting and will always be immediately in front of us as we try to get wherever we are going, almost always a doctor or hospital. Oddly, we never have any trouble getting home quickly … when we aren’t on a schedule.


We got there more or less on time anyhow, but the lab took a long time. She needed to keep hunting for that vein. She finally found it and I tried not to act as surly as I felt. Probably I failed. I was surly. They never listen to me.  You’d think, having been the owner/operator of this body for 65 long, painful years, they’d figure I might know a thing or two about it, but they always assume I’m either senile or retarded. Maybe both.


We had to wait for the lab. We had to wait for the doctor. Then, we had to wait some more because I needed a chest X-ray and the X-ray tech was in the other building (the hospital across the street) and when he showed up, the software that runs the X-ray machine was on the fritz. I suggested he reboot. He said the last time he did that, it totally died. I pointed out he had nothing to lose: it wasn’t working anyhow.


He rebooted. It died completely. Another tech joined him and they concluded that the machine was (again because this is apparently a regular event) broken. I could have told them that. The reason that there happened to be a second tech right on the spot was because my patient husband, who was sitting there reading his newspaper had realized that his paper was getting wet. That it was raining outside was one issue, but we were in the lobby of the relatively new Dana Farber almost-but-not-quite state-of-the-art cancer facility. Less than 5 years old, anyhow.


So they called the guy to fix the leak (again) because this too was a regular event. They had yet to figure out where the water was coming from. They thought maybe it was coming through the electrical system and leaking out through a lightbulb, leading me to suggest that they could put a lot of people out of their misery by upping the voltage and electrocuting people in the waiting room. The administrative nurse says “Nah, we’d need an electrical upgrade to get the voltage high enough to do anyone in, but maybe they could fix it on the next remodel.”  I love nurses.



I had nothing to do through most of this. Lacking my Kindle, I dug around and found my little Canon Powershot 260, which I carry all the time to handle photographic emergencies. After exploring the contents of the chip, deleting some really bad pictures, I figured I might as well try to see if there’s anything to photograph in the various waiting areas of Dana Farber Cancer Treatment Center in Milford, Massachusetts. That’s what happens when you forget to bring something to read.

Why they have a grand piano in the lobby is anybody’s guess. I’m afraid to ask.