There was some controversy about last Saturday’s community service project, where as many as 50 volunteers took time to work on the exterior of most of the homes in a single block. After I posted the Great Bend Tribune’s story on our Facebook page, one person commented, “That name is offensive.”
“What name?” I asked myself, checking to see if the reader meant someone mentioned in the comments. Then I realized, the poster was referring to the name of the volunteer mission: “Damn It, Do It! Day.”
There, I said it.
Even though the name of the mission is not offensive to me, I avoided using it in headlines in our family-friendly newspaper. The real story was not the name, but what was done from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. by those volunteers. Ryan Fairchild, who organized the event with Sara Hayden, said the volunteers painted three homes and repaired trim on houses in need, took care of overgrown trees and saplings, cleaned properties of clutter with the assistance of the owners, re-sided the side of one of the houses and replaced the front door. He could have added that volunteers mowed lawns, trimmed weeds, repaired a ramp or two, worked on a deck and added from pretty flowers to the exteriors of the homes.
Still, that name. One homeowner turned down the offer of free help, and cited the “offensive language.”
I’m old enough to remember when the 1939 film “Gone with the Wind” made its broadcast television debut on NBC in 1976 and included the scene where Rhett Butler tells Scarlet O’Hara, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.” I always believed that was the first time anyone had said the word “damn” on prime-time network TV, but according to Mental Floss, the “D-word” was first spoken on March 28, 1965, as an ad lib on an episode of “My Favorite Martian.” In that episode, Tim’s former teacher Miss Pringle (actress Doris Packer) receives a gold watch and quips, “Damn thing probably doesn’t even keep time.”
I also remember comedian George Carlin’s bit about the “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television,” from his “Class Clown” album in 1972. I don’t think I actually heard it on the radio but someone did, resulting in an FCC sanction and Supreme Court ruling. I recall hearing that the “seven words” were said so quickly that they weren’t really clear to first-time listeners. I’m certainly not going to print them here.
Which brings us to today, and the decision to name last Saturday’s project “Damn It, Do It! Day.” The choice of the name is absolutely not the most important part of the story. In case you missed it, approximately 50 people showed up on a Saturday when they could have been doing anything else and spent five hours donating their physical labor to fellow Great Bend residents.
As Fairchild said in the Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/damnitdoitgbk), “We did it. We dammit did it. ... We can do it every day. It’s a beautiful day today, so take the family for a walk. Take some (grocery) sacks with you and pick up trash along your walk. Everybody can do it, and hopefully, we’ve inspired people in the community to do the same.”
If you organize your own project, you can call it whatever the #&3@! you want. I just think it was a darned nice thing to do. (Hey, you have to know your audience.)
Susan Thacker is the News Editor at the Great Bend Tribune. Contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.