Sunday, November 8, 2009

Living In Community

We Davidsonians tend to be civic minded people. You know, often times when I read all the alumni news, after the surge of pride and interest, a little self-doubt and insignificance begins to creep in. But I've been working on those feelings and in the last year I've developed a new perspective about what a civic minded Davidsonian (who no longer lives on campus) looks like. Perhaps it's all the Facebook time I've been logging. Catching up with everyone and their families and what they're doing with their lives has helped me look at my own life with clearer eyes. Perhaps it's staying connected with a dear friend whose daily life is its own challenge. She uses her own limitations to change those around her through sharing her very personal story in a weekly blog. Perhaps it's spending time with former Davidsonians and their own children and watching how they engage in their own communities on a daily basis.

I probably won't ever do anything spectacular or world changing. I had the audacity once, to tell my English teacher I wanted to be an ambassador. Well, it turns out I am an ambassador, just not to a foreign country. Instead I reach out and proffer olive branches, world peace, and mutually beneficial trade propositions in small ways. I hold little hands in parking lots and crossing the street. I try to help two small boys and their friends who come and go through my house reign in aggression and curiosity and channel that energy into productive play and participation in preschool, Sunday School, and with our neighbors at the playground. I lead a circle of friends by helping us all stay connected through emails, phone calls, food, and friendship. I support another Davidsonian in her quest to revitalize and reshape a children's ministry in our church by participating in as many opportunities as my schedule allows. I facilitate a Bible study gathering of women that spans three generations. None of these activities is particularly earth shattering, but each of these activities shares a common thread--community engagement.

Community participation is so critical to our well being as human beings. In all our ways (big and small) we seek to better the lives of those around us as well as bettering ourselves by pursuing a life lived in community with one another. While none of my current pursuits fall under the banner of social justice or economic development or political change, all of my activities help me stay connected with other women. I am so fortunate to know so many who when hearing the call: take dinner to a friend in need, pick up a child at school for a mom who has an emergency, organize a family service project that exposes their children to those who make it work with less, collect school supplies, coats, backpacks, bedding, clothing, and linens for families who have sustained losses, are starting over, or need help bridging the gaps. We take care of each other and collectively work to take care of others.

In my current stage in life as caretaker of small children it makes sense to use my time and energy wisely doing what I am able and not hankering for CNN news headlines. Since so many Davidsonians actually make CNN with big picture decisions, it is sometimes hard for me to remind myself that even my small little life is important in big ways to others around me. So I do my part with a cheerful countenance and with joy in my heart (most days). I never know when doing a small thing like taking dinner to a friend will have a big impact. Maybe that rotisserie chicken I picked up at BiLo to go with the green bean casserole I made will free up enough time for her to finish that presentation she was doing before the crisis hit that prompted me to bring dinner--and her idea revolutionizes how we manage health care. Who knows? Maybe I'm teaching a child who will grow up to cure cancer. Maybe my friends' daughters and sons, having been raised in homes where love for neighbor is a way of life, grow up to start foundations that change lives.

Engaging in community and working towards sustaining community through friendship, service, work, and play is really an extension of my youthful desire to make a difference in the world. Making a difference isn't always about the big things. Often times, it's about the small things--a note to a friend suffering a loss, a thank you note to a friend for their empathy and help, an intentional word of kindness to someone difficult to get along with. God is in the big and the small. If I can take care of some of the small, maybe it will give Him more time to do the big. So I think I do make a difference these days--one playdate, carpool, or casserole at a time.

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