I didn’t grow up with a working concept of community. Family lived far away and there were no church groups or potlucks. Other than a yearly community block party, there was just my Mom and my sister and my visits with my Dad. So when my husband and I began our family, I intuited our need to be part of a spiritual community which could support us and sustain us. That, as a part of a larger group, we could lean on it and give back in equal parts. And I hoped my children would know about the interconnected web of humanity, the necessity of community, and the care-taking for one another that takes place within.
Every Memorial Day weekend our Unitarian Universalist fellowship community holds a yard sale fundraiser requiring a lot of hands-on work. Last year when I was still up to my eyeballs in baby and crazy, I couldn’t help. This year I offered myself up for three days of yard sale work as I am good at yard sale organization and pricing.
But I was dreading this week. I dreaded the sacrifice of my few child-free days for work that wasn’t creative and productive and for my personal benefit. I also dreaded humping stuff in out of houses and trucks and pricing and displaying all the stuff. But I told myself, this was the week I was showing up and being of service to my community daggone it.
But what is community and what is service? A community is based on relationships. It is composed of friends and families who share similar interests or beliefs or live in the same place and often become more like family through sharing lives. The reciprocal giving and receiving, often through service, is the foundation for these relationships. You then pay it forward when you support the church or the Rotary or Lion’s Club as they give back to the same community you are a part of. And the recycling of kindness and generosity is just a really nice process to be a part of. I kept these concepts in mind as I pushed past my grumbling brain onto the work at hand.
I understood this week was about being humble and not making it about me. I understood there is always a job that needs doing for the larger community. And I came to understand that the sacrifice feels better when there’s visible value. I was asked to move stuff out of storage to the church for a woman who spends much of her time in a wheelchair. I saw the relief on this woman’s face and I saw progress as I helped price and organize the mound of stuff for the yard sale that would then profit the church and the community they then benefit. Like the spreading ripples of a stone thrown in a pond, even the littlest gestures of service affect many others.
As I am honoring and understanding Memorial Day today, my thought is that serving your country in Military Service is brave and often thankless work. As the likelihood of having someone in your family who has served in a war is dwindling, fewer people understand Military sacrifice . Our reciprocal gift to our service people is our recognition of their service and sacrifice.
The holiday reminds us that, although sacrifice is not the goal of military service, it is too often the outcome. If we did not understand the generosity and necessity of the work of our military personnel as service to the country, their passing would be pointless.
Thanking a service person for their work may be awkward. They may not be comfortable with accepting compliments as they see this as their job and not an invaluable service to us. An interviewed soldier says this about someone offering him thanks. “It feels a bit like that ‘thank you’ belongs to someone else…I’ve made my peace with the fact that they can’t find the wounded warriors or the families or someone who died in service to offer that thank you to. So it’s my responsibility to accept it graciously.” Perfect words don’t exist yet something still needs to be said or perhaps done to acknowledge the loss of people who were serving their country and community when they lost their lives.
This week I discovered being of service is tougher and more rewarding than you’d think. And that once you’ve given of yourself to serve a greater community, you feel better than you would just serving yourself. Your esteem raises as does your faith in humanity. And you come to understand that good wins even in the presence of the ugliness. You can find gratitude and ease in knowing that for those whose backs you’ve gotten, they’ll have yours as well. And that through the giving and respectful receiving of these gifts time and skill, we then have the honor and great privilege of valuing the best of what we are as a civilized human beings.
Happy Memorial Day Fellow Citizens !
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