Many years ago, I was chatting with a coworker about art. During the conversation he said, “I think only two things really matter in life: Creative endeavor and Service to Others.” I don’t recall his exact words, but this is close. I remember thinking back then, I am totally in agreement about creativity, but not so certain about service to others. I thought it was good and all, but to make that my focus? I wasn’t sure. Well, that was then. Today I find that service to my community is exciting and rewarding. I think the reason has something to do with getting my mind off myself. As for creativity? What could be more creative than finding new ways to serve my community? It gives me opportunities to learn, to meet new people and to stretch myself! And getting me out of the house is no small part of the benefit. Today it gives me a thrill to be able to take on a new project and to follow through.
I am big on community these days. This is not only because I like people, but because there are real benefits for me. I get to meet new folks and learn new skills. I broaden my social horizon and find out more about my community.
It occurs to me lately that we all suffer from a distortion of reality due to scale. We usually interact with a limited number of people, over the course of a week or a month. Unless we make an effort to expand, this human quantity can remain the same for years! When that happens, we can make unwarranted assumptions about our community. We may think we know our neighbors when we really do not. Perhaps this is one way prejudice arises – from ignorance.
I don’t want my world to shrink, but to expand, especially now that I am older and retired. Meeting new people is exciting! Community service is one way to accomplish this.
We can feel so isolated these days. It’s difficult to visit in person and we feel less likely to call someone, perhaps because we got out of the habit when we were super busy in earlier days. However it certainly means more to me to talk on the phone now that it may be unwise to visit in person.
I’ve found community in another setting – the written word. I love ideas so I read a lot, mostly non-fiction. I read things I might not normally take time for and so learn a great deal. I love the exposure to other minds and encounters with unexpected information and ideas.
My church recently published a series of devotions highlighting pioneers of faith in the deep South. I learned a lot of history and found I was greatly encouraged and wanting more.
So I encourage folks to read – not just the news, but stories of people: their histories, their challenges, their hopes. Writing letters helps build community too, because that way you also receive letters and stories!
You could share family history over phone or online and then write about it. Try any creative endeavor that encourages community.
We are not as isolated as we think. There are people of ideas everywhere! For example, I belong to a Facebook group for writers of all sorts. It has members from around the world totalling over three thousand. Once I figured out how to login on my phone I was greatly rewarded. Ideas are shared as well as requests for book reviews. I am learning a great deal. It sounds overwhelming, but I recently stumbled onto a book of poetry the author would like us to review, “Winter Sun”. Of course one can’t follow up on everything, but if it’s ideas you’re after, try Facebook groups.
Upon rereading my post of a couple days ago, I think I must apologize for what sounds like the callous assertion that people who have lost their jobs must suffer for the good of all. That’s how it hit me upon reading it today. What a terrible suggestion! What I meant to emphasize is that we should become more generous in order to help our neighbors and promote the community I spoke of.
I recently read of a restaurateur in Washington DC who serves everyone who comes in the door regardless of their ability to pay. He emigrated from Pakistan some years ago, worked very hard and saved money in order to do God’s work, which he had not yet identified. When a friend wanted to sell his restaurant, it was clear what he should do – feed the hungry. He has paying customers, of course, but feeding everyone is at the center of his mission. See this story in the March 2020 issue of Guideposts magazine.
The challenges of living today are enormous. So much is required of us, especially in the area of communication. We are bombarded with information, so we’re constantly weeding and sorting: Truth from lies, value from garbage, friends from foes, threats from opportunities, hope from fear. These challenges increased exponentially with the advent of the internet. We have an explosion of information and a whole herd of new options, which means thousands more decisions every week or oftener. These are days that test our mettle.
And now we have a global pandemic. This can make us fearful and a bit more selfish and protective. Yet, I read recently about a business owner who voluntarily closed his bar for the second time, to help control the spread of COVID19. He considers it a community service and a necessary precaution.
My heart aches for those who have lost their jobs. I’ve been in that situation too, over the years, and I remember the feeling of desperation. Still, I pray that we will all learn to accept some sacrifices for the sake of our communities. I believe that Community, like Faith, is at the heart of the positives that will help us work together and survive.
If you know of a story of community effort you would like to share, I invite you to add your comments! And thanks.
This is about my yard, my sweet half acre. It is grassy, and we once had a garden in back. Howard also planted a magnolia, 30 years ago and now it’s big. This is May, so the great white blooms are getting ready to come out!
Lots has changed here over the years. Howard is gone, so are many of my neighbors. However, I made sure to meet the new ones as they moved in on each side, next door. I’m glad I made the effort and glad they are here.
I know many of my neighbors, and I can see activity from any window in my house. That’s because the roads are skewed to each other, and there are hills too. My house is on a through street, connecting us all to two main arteries with lots of bustle. There is an alley about 30 yards behind my house, built for trash collection years ago. I like to walk along it and observe the neighborhood, especially the progress on the construction widening one of our main roads and taking the curves out. This is a big deal – immense sewer pipes are going in, utility poles are uprooted and replaced, and piles of old and new dirt are everywhere.
I am half a mile from a high school and less than 2 blocks from a neighborhood pub. Nonetheless, there is lots of green space and massive trees, a joy in summer. Such is life in this small town in the South.
I may have to leave this house for a variety of reasons, but then again maybe not! A fair amount of uncertainty is going on, true also for our country and our world. No one living today, in May of 2020, needs to be reminded of it. I believe if we trust God, the One who made us and who demonstrates His love for us through Jesus, we will calm down and become the people He created us to be – Faithful, peaceful and generous.