A Project for Students and Citizens

Living Democracy in Elba: Week Ten

In Elba on August 13, 2013 at 2:24 pm
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Sierra Lehnhoff, Farris English conduct summer art session in Elba. (Photo by Nathan Simone)

Elba experience provides life lessons

By Sierra Lehnhoff

The past 10 weeks spent in Elba as part of the Living Democracy program was an experience, to say the least. The program was filled with ups and downs, leaps and stumbles and a lot of growth for me. I’ve never been a very forward person when it comes to asking for items or help from another. Although I am driven and will work hard on any task given to me, I will put off any task that requires me to ask for someone’s help, permission or collaboration. I don’t think there is anything more nerve-wracking to me. Surprise, surprise- this is a lot of what Living Democracy is.

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Lehnhoff explains Living Democracy project at Rotary Club meeting. (Photo by Nathan Simone)

Through Living Democracy I have become more open to the idea that asking for help, donations or collaboration isn’t so bad. It didn’t always work out, but when things did work out I got the help I needed for my community projects. The zombie run could have never happened without taking the first step to being more socially forward. Without speaking out to people, we wouldn’t have had any donations or attendees.

I had to ask storeowners to put up fliers in their stores in multiple places in multiple towns for the run and for the children’s art classes I directed this summer. It was hard because with every “yes” you get comes a couple of “no’s” as well.

Asking for a bit of help doesn’t seem half as daunting as it used to be, and now I don’t really see what I thought the big deal about it was. If someone says no, you move on and go ask someone else. You keep asking until you get a yes. Sometimes if you don’t ask, people pass up the opportunity because they assume you don’t want their help even if they are willing to give it. By not asking you have basically cheated yourself out of any option at all besides no.

Aside from the major life lesson I gained, it’s been a good time in Elba. I have enjoyed my frequent lunches at Just Folk Coffeehouse with everyone who lunches there. I loved having the kids in my art class. They were all so great and having a room full of 10 kids can be frustrating when they’re screaming and running away from a spider. However, nothing beats the moments when they said they were having fun or thanked me for teaching them how to draw something new.

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Lehnhoff gives instructions to participants in Elba’s first summer Zombie Run. (Photo by Nathan Simone)

The zombie run was every ounce as stressful as it was rewarding, but I loved the outcome. I’ll always laugh about putting out hay bales at 8 p.m. with three teenagers and having to run back to the car soaked because it decided to rain when we were halfway through building the trail in the woods. Who knows, maybe I’ll decide to start my own zombie run in Auburn this year or the next?

Lastly, I would like to thank a whole slew of people who offered me their help and support during my 10-week stay. Especially those who helped, donated and reached out to me when I asked for help because it was especially hard for me to request such assistance.

First, thank you to everyone who helped in the zombie run: all the attendees, Kenneth Calhoun, Jack and Meredith Brunson, my mother, Mike Spencer, John Gray, Brinley, Justin Maddox, Ryan Renfroe, Ed Cowen, the owners of ACE Hardware in Elba, Mr. Sparks and INZI Controls, and all of the teenagers who stayed after to help clean up!

Thank you to all the parents who let me teach their kids art this summer! I enjoyed teaching them and seeing the art they made. I hope they continue to grow creatively. Thank you Debbie Jared for letting us use your room for art class as well. It was great! Thank you Ed and Myrna Cowen for letting me live with you- it was amazing to get to know ya’ll! You were so hospitable and AMAZING cooks. I don’t think I’ll eat half as good home cooking ever again like I did with you two.

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Lehnhoff paints new sign for Restoration 154’s Pea River Outdoors shop.

Thank you to Mart Gray, my community partner and lively traveling minister. I appreciate all your support and helping me gain support through your church family. I also appreciate the good food and tables for art class! A big thanks to Restoration 154’s Justin Maddox and Philip Box for reaching back to me after I reached out to you! I hope all your endeavors go well and hope to see more of ya’ll in programs to come through Auburn! Thank you for your help, support, and the opportunity to paint your sign for Pea River Outdoors.

Thank you to all of those who embraced me, supported me, and guided me as I was in Elba! I know I have a lot of names to list and I might forget a few, but everything you did for the Living Democracy program and me is greatly appreciated.

Lastly, thank you so so so much Farris English. She was my right hand lady during this whole adventure, and I don’t think I could have made it without her. Farris helped me with art class, and she helped with the zombie run a LOT. She took on a lot more than I ever expected from her and kept my head from popping off some days when I had a lot on my mind. I enjoyed all of the work and the fun with her. It was a great summer with a lot of growth and memories. Hope to see you again soon, Elba!

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