It doesn’t come cheap anymore

Published 8:24 am Thursday, December 24, 2009

Obviously, the Austin Noon Lions are desperate.

They dispatched Harlan and June Nelson to bring me to last Thursday’s annual Christmas meeting with an offer I couldn’t refuse:  Free food catered by Hy Vee’s marvelous Mark.

I’m no fool.  I went.

Mr. Nelson has been waging an energetic campaign to get me to join the Austin Noon Lions club, so my guard was up. Somewhere between singing a song and pledging allegiance to the flag, Harlan could have gotten me to sign a contract requiring me to attend every Austin Noon Lions club meeting for the rest of my life and standing outside the Mower County Courthouse and selling time-shares for an ice house in the Mill Pond to raise money for the club’s many community service projects.

Not that I don’t respect what the Austin Noon Lions club does for so many.  It’s just that I don’t know where I fit in or what I can do.

How can one hope to come close to the multitude of grand deeds done by the legendary George Dugan among other Lions.

So, I was on edge all the time we spent in the basement of the Austin Elk’s club.  Fortunately, Awesome Alive was there to calm me down.

Things went well. My dinner companions were excellent and the conversation upbeat.

I may have flinched when the club presented four-figure checks to Pacelli High School for their share of Austin Noon Lions club fundraisers.

Then it happened. Somewhere between bites of a slice of pecan pie topped with whipped cream, I heard my name called.

“What’s going on,” I said to myself.  “Was I eating Howard Buchardt’s piece of pie?

I stumbled to the podium where club president Barry Irish was waiting. It is at times such as this that I always say a silent prayer that my fly is zipped.

Turns out they had a plaque left over from another banquet and my name was on it.

It was no time for jokes. I had a half a slice of pecan pie topped with whipped cream waiting for me back at my table.

I expressed my appreciation and retired to my seat as quickly as possible.

We were entertained by the Pacelli Singers under the capable direction of Chelsey Korfage and accompanied by her mom, Pam.  Nobody gets more from fewer voices than the Pacelli music department.

Like Christmas, the whole affair was too good to be entirely true.

As the perfect touch on Mr. Nelson’s recruitment effort to get me to join the Austin Noon Lions club, he worked it out so that I won a Poinsettia plant when door prizes were drawn.

His wife, June, also won one.  Coincidence?  I think not.

On the way out the meeting hall that day, plaque and Poinsettia in hand, I reflected on how lucky people are to have family and friends to appreciate and how the perfect present anytime of the year, but especially at Christmas, is seeing the human spirit do its magic.

When Mr. Nelson dropped me off at my apartment, he announce to me, “Don’t forget Lions Pancake Day is coming up in January.  We’re going to need you.”

Free food, good music, a plaque and a Poinsettia don’t come cheap any more.

Merry Christmas!