Inauguration Day: Wake Up Call

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Fitzpatrick brothers cleaning up

Fitzpatrick brothers Todd and Greg cleaning up 

Volunteering or handling volunteers can be a tricky proposition. When done correctly, it's an amazing experience for both community organizers and volunteers. When done wrong, it's nothing but frustration for everyone involved--in many ways, more frustrating than when you're getting paid to do something.

In the case of Monday's day of service, it really was done right for me.

I used the official community service site to sign up for park cleanup in Reston, Virginia, near the hotel where Rosie and I were checking into in Fairfax, Virginia. The site is set up to cut off new sign-ups once an event reaches its allotted volunteers--all information is managed by the participating organization.

When it became clear that both my brothers had become semi-guilted into joining me, I was able to change my sign-up to a nature conservancy near Greg's house. They plodded along with me on the mile or so walk somewhat reluctantly.

cleanup volunteer

Another helpful volunteer 

Once we got going, it was a blast. We were issued the challenge of cleaning underbrush, trimming trees, and raking leaves on an old, abandoned trail with a recently discovered stone bridge that was more than 100 years old. Within two hours, the perfect number of volunteers (about 15 in our area), had transformed the area from wilderness into an obvious trail.

It felt good to give back, and it really demonstrated the power of a well-organized group of volunteers in a short amount of time. It also got me in the right frame of mind for today's inaugural address. Everyone here in D.C. is waiting for President Obama's challenge to all of us--his wake-up call.

The energy has built to borderline hysteria. So much so that Rosie and I could not sleep after I picked her up from the airport at 11:30 last night. She tried to lay down from 2 to 3 a.m., but was out of bed by 2:40.

We're rushing downstairs to catch our 3:30 a.m. taxi, which will take us from our hotel in Fairfax, Virginia, to the metro station, which opens at 4. We want to be the first ones on the train in an attempt to get the best spot possible for the swearing in and address.

Onward to history!

UPDATE: Rosie and I were carried into the front of the general viewing area in a sea of joyous, chanting revelers. Gates were not scheduled to open until 9, but they had to open at 5:30 because military buses could not get through the crowd on Independence Avenue.DCpic.jpg

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