He just wanted to belong


By Pat Haley - Contributing Columnist



A woodworker in our town had a little sign posted on his wall that said, “No job too large. No job too small.”

The same philosophy served me well as it came to joining committees, clubs and groups throughout my lifetime.

Sociologists tell us belonging is a human need, just like the need for food and shelter. Feeling that you belong is important in seeing value in life and provides a sense of belonging to a greater community.

God has been kind to me. I have had the opportunity to serve on several important, worthwhile boards, while at the same time taking advantage of the opportunity to become a member of simpler groups.

For example, I belong, along with son Greg and grandson Jack, to the Andy Griffith Rerun Watchers Club. Our chapter is named, “Just arch your back and purr.”

No job too large. No job too small.

My wife Brenda and I were accepted into another small group years ago in Chambersburg, Pa. Our involvement came about by accident one summer after moving to Staunton, Va. in 1993.

I have a long-held interest in the American Civil War, and the proximity of Gettysburg to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia made the trip an easy drive for us.

Our journeys to the Gettysburg area increased over time, and on one trip our regular hotel was booked and we were told “here was no room at the inn.” The Gettysburg hotel staff recommended a sister Hampton Inn located about 30 minutes away in Chambersburg.

We reluctantly traveled the extra 25 miles, in the wrong direction, to Chambersburg; but ultimately found the borough to be an area rich in Civil War history, too.

Our detour to Chambersburg turned out to be a blessing in disguise. From the moment we walked inside the front doors of the Hampton Inn that sits on a small knoll alongside Interstate 81 bordered by a corn field in the back, our acceptance by the hotel staff was outstanding.

Our affiliation with the group began the minute we met Kerri and Kathi, the manager and assistant manager, and over the years our friendship has grown. We became members of this outgoing Hampton Inn of Chambersburg Group.

One October evening we traveled to Gettysburg and enjoyed a casual dinner at the Dobbin House Tavern, before taking a walk downtown. Along our route we passed a men’s shop, and the Getty Hotel, before we came upon a unique and somewhat melancholy appearing establishment called the Arrow Horse music store.

The store had dark, wide floor boards, which had been recently waxed with an old-style beeswax concoction, giving off a sweet and an all but forgotten fragrance of days long gone by.

Inside the store, sitting in a circle, were a mixture of amateur bluegrass musicians, playing and singing traditional mountain tunes straight from the anthologies of Dr. Ralph Stanley and Bill Monroe.

We have since visited the jam session many times, and have come to know some of the musicians — Larry, Johnny, Donnie, Hank and Sonny.

Sonny first caught our attention because he strummed his instrument with his left hand, and wore, as one woman described them, snazzy suspenders with a yellow shirt and blue dress pants that fit snuggly around his middle. He was friendly, but we noticed he always sat alone on the fringe of the circle, quietly strumming his guitar.

The bluegrass players were a tight-knit group and although all performers were welcomed, acceptance didn’t come easy. Many considered inclusion into the elite group a high honor.

Sonny was unlike the other musicians. He never took the lead or played a “break” during a song.

Last week, Brenda and I returned to Chambersburg and Gettysburg for a nice visit over the Memorial Day weekend. We saw Kathi, Kerri, Carla, Nipa, Julie, and Vickie at the Hampton Inn again, and spent pleasant time with our group.

We attended the Gettysburg bluegrass jam and saw all the regulars. And over in the corner sat Sonny thrumming his guitar as he has done every Friday night for more than 23 years.

I remarked to one of the musicians that Sonny had played with the group for a long time. I was taken aback by the musician’s response. “Sonny doesn’t play. He never learned how. He just acts like he is strumming.”

He just wanted to belong to the group.

And that’s how it was in Gettysburg, Pa. on Memorial Day weekend in 2019.

Pat Haley is former Clinton County commissioner and former Clinton County sheriff.

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By Pat Haley

Contributing Columnist