Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Taking Care of Our Corner of the World Part 2: Our Community

Thanksgiving and Christmas seem to be a time when many of us focus on helping others.  There are endless food and toy drives, as well as opportunities to donate warm winter clothing to those who may be in need.  This is the time of the year when we tend to offer our support to those in our community, and perhaps around the world, who are much less fortunate than us.  It may come as second nature to many of us to participate in these activities, but are we taking care of our community the other ten months out of the year?

In this part of my series on caring for our corner of the world, I would like to reflect on how we can better take care of those in our community.  Once again I find myself thinking about what we currently do and in what areas we could improve upon.  When I think of helping my community, my first thought is of those in the area in which I live who are struggling to make ends meet and in need of basic survival staples.  Perhaps this is what many of you think of as well, and while this is very important, maybe we should be looking even closer to home:  our family, friends, and neighbors.

In this day and age of "hurry up and go" and technology, I feel like we've become much more disconnected to those around us.  Instead of picking up the phone and speaking to someone, we send an email or text.  Birthday cards and handwritten letters have often been replaced with electronic cards, Facebook or other social media wishes, or emails.  At times it feels like we've lost the ability to effectively communicate without the use of technology.  I know I am guilty of this, but it is something that with some organization and conscious effort, could easily be changed.  How simple would it be to go through the calendar at the beginning of the year, write down your family and friend's birthdays, and have a stack of cards ready and waiting to be mailed?  Including a little note would be a wonderful gift for those important people in your life!  

When we talk with our family, neighbors, friends, and co-workers are we really listening?  Everyone struggles and has their ups and downs, but are we willing to listen and offer help if necessary?  Not long ago I was struggling and feeling overwhelmed (not to say this doesn't happen at least once a day!) and just not feeling like myself.  One day I got a text from my dear friend from college asking if everything was okay.  She had picked up that I wasn't acting like myself and I couldn't have been more relieved to have someone to talk to.  It's the little things that make a big difference.  Our exchange made me realize that things were a little "off" in my life and gave me the push I needed to express those feelings I was holding inside.  How often do we miss these cues in other people or brush them off as nothing.  Maybe a simple, "Are you okay?" could make a huge difference in someone's life.  A few weeks ago after a Kansas City Chiefs football player killed his girlfriend and himself, Brady Quinn sat in a press conference and made this wonderful point (take a listen, it's worth it!).

Taking a look at our bigger community is very important as well.  What could we do to help out those who are in need?  I read a thought-provoking book called You Can Buy Happiness (And It's Cheap):  How One Woman Radically Simplified Her Life and You Can Too by Tammy Strobel.  Much of this book talked about our society's obsession with "stuff" and how removing some of this clutter in our lives can be very beneficial.  By no means would I ever claim that I would even consider being as radical as her in this adventure, but I think there were many valid points that encouraged me to think a little about how we could change.  I'm sure we could all go through our closets and find clothes that we've hardly worn (or maybe even ever worn?) and donate them to those in need.  The same would apply to toys, books, household gadgets, etc.  Perhaps we could take the money that we may spend on unnecessary things and instead buy food or clothing to donate throughout the year.  Time is a precious commodity, but if we could find some every week or month, could we find causes near and dear to our hearts and volunteer our time and physical presence to really make a difference?  Many, many kids struggle with literacy, school, socializing, and quite frankly feeling like someone cares about them.  Could we find some time in our busy schedules to help them?  There are always opportunities on United Way's website (look in your local area) to help.  Could we all challenge ourselves to go out of our way this year to find some volunteer opportunity to donate our time to?

This post only begins to touch the surface of what we could do.  There are many worthy causes we could assist in our community:  the homeless, sick, military, under-priveleged , elderly, etc.  What touches you and what will you do to make a difference?  I know that one of the areas I am passionate about is literacy and children.  This year I plan to challenge myself to find a way to get books into these kids' hands.  A lifelong friend of mine and I are working together to explore a way to help in our local community.  It would make me so very happy if our idea came to fruition.  

For those of you who are parents, don't forget to encourage your children to think of others and involve them in service activities.  If possible, take them along when you volunteer.  Have them make cards for sick neighbors, friends, or family.  Take them to the store and have them assist in buying food, clothing, toys, or books for others.  What a wonderful way to instill a lifelong love of service.  Let's help out the community, large and small, in our corner of the world!  This is the perfect time of year to set some goals and follow through on them!        



No comments:

Post a Comment