There was widespread disagreement as to who arrived second on that Saturday in December. Some people, though, said Mike Carrington was the second person to arrive at The Thomson Depot to set up the Festival off Main.
Whether second or fifth, Carrington was there early that morning. In a larger sense, he was always there early. He was among that core of workers who do whatever needs to be done. They fill the gaps that fall between titles and payrolls. They carry on even when the work isn’t assigned evenly, or when other assignments are forgotten, or when unforeseeable complications reveal themselves.
They would be the first to step in to solve a problem, and the last to admit that it was a problem at all.
Their tendency is to work the extra hour, to seek the common good, and to deflect or to share the credit.
Every community has its volunteers, and perhaps a few exceptional volunteers. They give generously and quietly of their time and their money. We see these people daily. They include the elected official who arrives first at the Habitat for Humanity project, but who seeks no political gain from the work. They include the Rotarian who could announce her charity donation in lieu of a missed meeting, but who mentions it quietly instead. They include the police and firefighters who do the cooking at a dinner that’s supposed to be in their honor. They include those who operate the Thursday lunch outreach, those who stock the food pantry shelves, and those who coach school and rec league sports. They include those who open an arts gallery and those who resuscitate a museum. They include those who serve on public boards that pay only in grief. They include those whose teaching salaries fail to reflect their dedication.
I have remarked in the past that McDuffie’s volunteer workload is well distributed. A volunteer on a high rung has remarked that the workload could be shared just a little better.
The loss of Mike Carrington will put that dispute to rest. Despite the abundance of volunteers in the community he supported, Carrington’s absence will be conspicuous. He will not be tending to this barbecue or to that parade. He will not be operating a sound system in a downpour. His partners in those many projects will pick up a bit more work. A few rising volunteers will accept a bit more responsibility. A few beginners will join the ranks of volunteers.
Those extra hours will be made easier by sharing the sense of humor that Carrington brought to his work. While still stringing the cords to provide sound to The Depot that December day, Carrington confirmed the consensus that a friend of his had arrived there first, at 4:30 a.m. “I don’t know what’s wrong with him,” Carrington said. “He gets up that early on purpose.”
Carrington would have been the last to suggest that his record was exceptional. He would call attention to other who have given their very best. But we owe it to Carrington to acknowledge that his record is remarkable, even in that remarkable company.