Sworn to Fun
A Reason for the Decline of Rockhounding
by Ed Tindell, 2009 Clear Lake Gem & Mineral Society President

Below is an article written for my club's newsletter, the 2009/7 edition of Stoney Statements by the Clear Lake Gem & Mineral Society (CLGMS) of Houston, TX. It is based on reading thousands of emails from rockhounds over the years and my own personal experience with getting people to be active in their club(s). I believe it does point out a hidden reason for the decline of our hobby. I'm sure it's not the only reason but at the same time I believe is does contribute to the decline in a significant way.

The question is how much? I have a good idea of it's impact here in the Houston area and I'm hoping that many if not all of you who read this will intelligently respond (no knee-jerk reactions please) and help me estimate what effect it has on rockhounding in your area. I would appreciate it if you would read it, perhaps several times, sleep on it, talk to friends about it, discuss it here on the Internet, etc. and above all give me some thoughtfully considered feedback. If you want to publish it in your own newsletter feel free to do so, just give the 2009/7 edition of Stoney Statements from the CLGMS credit.

Thanks,
Ed Tindell 2009 CLGMS President

President's Column for July, 2009:

I haven't had time to write one of these columns for the last few months. I've been too busy. Rock hounding is not all I do. Have you heard that one before? I suppose it's my excuse as well as anybody else's for not being more active at times. I wonder. Let me explain.

I really enjoy job assignments at work that let me be a consultant. You get to ask a lot of seemingly stupid questions. Here's one: how many rock clubs do you belong to? You belong to our own club or you obviously wouldn't be reading this. What other rock clubs do you belong to? There are a lot of clubs out there that one can belong to. Ok, so you had to go and look thru your checkbook to find out which clubs you have paid dues to in the last twelve months because you are only counting your active memberships.

Here's another one: how many of the clubs that you belong to are you active in? I hate to be the one to tell you this but active doesn't mean your dues are paid up. If your dues are paid up that makes you a member in good standing but that does not imply that you are an active member. I know some of you are starting to wince as if in pain but keep reading this. Honestly answering stupid questions can be good for the soul. That's why I like consulting jobs. And I have a point to make.

One more: what does it mean when you say you are active in a club? Do you hold an elected office? Are you currently staffing a volunteer position? There are a lot more of those in most clubs than elected officers. Do you regularly attend the meetings of that club? Do you write articles for their newsletter? Do you give short talks or demonstrations at club meetings? How about full presentations as the main speaker? When was the last time you donated a door prize? Or attended a field trip? Or led one? Do you help out with their show? Do you volunteer to put rocks from your collection on display at libraries and schools when that club is asked to do so? On a scale of one to ten how did you do? Be honest.

By now you should know how many clubs you belong to and how active or inactive you are in each of them. Now the next time any club asks you to help out and you tell them that you are too busy stop and ask yourself: why am I too busy? Be honest. A few of you, life situation not withstanding, do everything you can for all of the clubs you belong too. I tip my hat to you! Married people are most often too busy with other non rock hound things. Spouse, kids, house, cars, work, etc. Single people tend to fill in all their available free time with activities of one sort or another and can stay pretty busy too. Looking for a mate, road trips, searching for a job, attending college, etc. All legitimate reasons. I'm guilty - I have four other hobbies besides rock hounding and I enjoy them all.

So here is my point: how many of you are too busy to help out in a club because you are already too busy helping out in all the other rock clubs you belong too? I submit to you that as human beings we are opportunists. You've heard the old saying, "Sworn to fun, loyal to none"? Be honest. Was the only activity you participated in with a club recently a field trip or class? When you only actively participate when a club has something to offer you but can't recall giving anything back recently what does that say about your membership? It's called being a member in name only.

Being a member in name only in one or more clubs is perhaps a hidden reason that our hobby is slowly dying. The old guard is retiring and often not enough new people are joining to maintain stable yet alone growing memberships in many clubs across the country. When that happens the old 80/20 rule, "80% of the work is done by 20% of the people", changes to 85/15, then 90/10, etc. When it gets to 100/0 the club dies. Our club is still fairly large as clubs go with 100 members at last count but despite that we are like a lot of other clubs that are slowly heading upwards with the 80/20 rule. With that said I sometimes wonder how long our club - or any club for that matter - will continue to exist.

I believe there is a way to turn this situation around. We need to change our nature as human beings from opportunists to loyalist. Of all the clubs you belong to which are you most loyal too? If you had to drop your membership in all the clubs you belong to but one which would you keep? What if the mineral federations adopted a one club only membership rule? Some clubs might disappear! The memberships of many clubs, especially those in areas with more than one local club, would certainly go down but a more true picture of membership would emerge, because members in one club would not be counted as members in many other clubs as well. Would more members not be too busy to help out when asked? I believe a lot of them would not be so busy helping out the other clubs they no longer belonged to, and if they are loyal to the one club they stayed a member in, I believe they would. We can be our own worst enemy or our own best friend. It's up to us.

If you have any questions you can write me at ed-tindell[at]sprynet.com.

Thanks,
Ed Tindell, 2009 CLGMS President

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