By KIRK MILLER
One does not have to fine tune an ear to listen to complaints about the steady parade of college students up and down the village streets every weekend. The residents of our community painfully telling their woeful tales of lost signage, littered yards or defiled front steps.
I heard something different last weekend. I heard the strum of rakes, and the whoosh of leaves being brought into piles amid youthful chatter. I looked around our village and found the streets were littered, not with plastic cups, but with bright-eyed smiling college students. They gathered into groups of 15 or more, rakes and tarps in hand. They descended upon the yards of senior citizens and lawns that looked as though they just needed a good raking.
The sight of these 18-and-up students scurrying around our neighbor's yards was a welcome sight for many of the elderly residents on the roads adjacent to the campus. They made quick work of some yards on Maple Avenue in Fredonia, as well as a dozen yards on Central.
As my family worked to get the leaves raked at our parents' house in that neighborhood, we were surrounded by one of these groups of students from the music department at FSU.
Within a short time all the work was done, and the leaves were piled neatly at the curb. In gratitude, we offered the boys working with us something warm to drink as it was a bit chilly that day. Even though the coffee and hot chocolate was their reward, for the gesture they graced us with a superb rendition of "September" sung a cappella.
We found out the boys helping us were the famed singing group "The Guerrillas" from campus. As the melody went on, many more students arrived in the back yard. My family enjoyed their performance as they sang into a rake shaped microphone, while clutching coffee mugs for warmth. By the song's end I counted about 25 students singing, dancing and clapping along in our parent's yard.
All too often we place a negative label on these talented kids housed just around the corner. This day I saw an entirely different label. I saw boys and girls wanting to help their neighbors. I heard stories of the small towns they came from or the big cities. I found out that this one was struggling with classes and others were making above average grades. I learned that they have the same wants and needs that we have.
As I looked across the chilled faces of these students I saw my kid's faces in the future, when it will be their time to venture into the world, maybe at a college far away from their home. Would they have the same sense of community that these young adults have?
Will the residents of that place be as accepting and tolerant as those of this town should be? I hope they will. It is all too easy to throw the barrel of apples away because one apple was rotten.
Perhaps we should dig further into the barrel to find the apples that really shine. They certainly lit up the back yards of Maple Avenue.
Thank you Fredonia State students for your assistance with our parent's and neighbors leaves, and for showing our community your many true talents.
Kirk Miller is a Fredonia resident.