Mercer cemetery volunteers revive spirit

On a rainy Saturday morning, Jan. 24, 2009, at 9:10 a.m., 30 young male and female Mercer students drove up to the entrance of Riverside Cemetery with rakes and tools in hand to help a few older-generation volunteers spend the next few hours cleaning up the cemetery. In a time when it seems that the only news we hear, or see, is about problems and troubles surrounding us, it is a pleasure to report that there are members of our society who are seeking to do good deeds without even expecting a “thank you.”

The story began just before Christmas when a Mercer student, Lindsey Hazzard, heard about a scheduled “Rose Hill Cemetery Clean-up Day” coming up in January. She contacted me to ask if a group of her fellow students, all members of the Reformed University Fellowship organization at Mercer, could help.

I said, “Of course, we need all of the help we can get!” When she told me that we could expect to have 30 to 40 students show up, I could not believe I heard her correctly. We have never had more than 10 or 12 people show up in the past, even on a beautiful day.

You can imagine my disappointment when I got up Saturday morning to a chilly, rainy day and thought about what a shame it will be to miss this opportunity to have a few extra people help with our task. I could not begin to imagine that 30 young people would show up so early on a Saturday morning to do hard labor, even if it were a beautiful spring day.

In fact, I spoke with other members of the Historic Rose Hill Cemetery Foundation that morning to discuss calling off the work day because of the rainy weather. We finally agreed to go to the cemetery anyway, just in case a few people did show up.

A few minutes past 9 a.m., a pickup truck full of rakes and a convoy of autos came driving up. Thirty energetic young people jumped out, all ready to work in the rain. For the next few hours they raked and pruned cemetery lots and filled almost 200 large trash bags with wet leaves and debris — and never took a break.

With the best manners and most humble demeanor one can imagine, they worked harder and faster than any group of volunteers I have ever had the pleasure of working with before. Even though they insisted that they did not want any recognition, or even a “thank you,” I cannot let this opportunity pass without saying what a blessing it was to see such unselfish love and a sincere desire to “give back to society” on display that day.

As I admire these young people for showing such great character, I cannot help but think about what a wonderful upbringing they must have received from parents who taught them what is really important in life. Not only did Rose Hill Cemetery receive the benefit of their unselfish service that rainy day, I received a blessing from God to know that our community is in good hands for the future with young people such as these.

To Chris “Buck” Rogers, the RUF campus minister at Mercer, and all of his students who helped us at Rose Hill Cemetery, thank you!

Rick Palmer is president of the Historic Rose Hill Cemetery Foundation in Macon.