After a year-plus of leading the Volunteer Committee at Communispace, I am handing over the reins to my very capable colleague, Carol Curran. This passing of the baton has led me to reflect on our company’s extraordinary volunteer accomplishments, the inherent joy in supporting life-affirming causes, and more broadly, the nature of communities.
In the last fifteen months, we did a lot of everything, displaying an appetite for local, national, and international community outreach. We planted daffodils by the Charles River. We cleaned up the grounds at the nearby Perkins School for the Blind – twice. We prepared food for the homeless and working poor at the Pine Street Inn. We ran pro bono community research for clients of the Ad Council, leading to a partnership with an organization famously known for helping generations of Americans effect critical social change. We worked with Haitians and Haitian-Americans to put on a music and dance benefit for victims of the Haiti earthquake – seems like a lot longer ago than January of 2010 – with the proceeds going to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund. If that’s not all, we walked and ran for a broad range of causes dear to us: hunger and colitis, muscular sclerosis and youth enrichment services. And we supported communities near and far with every conceivable kind of drive: food, clothing, bedding, toiletries, blood, boots, toys – even prom dresses.
During that time, I learned that what’s unimportant to me may be very important to someone else. Girl Scout cookies and chronic hunger find a level playing field in the land of good causes, where every effort is a vote for life. In other words, it’s all good.
And I found a joy in attaching myself to good causes, near and far, trivial and momentous, that I don’t seem to get from anything else. It clears the head, and leaves you with a sense of hope and renewal as you pursue your own goals, despite the obstacles.
So what is a community anyway? Margaret Mead once said that ‘civilization is the widening circle of people you won’t kill.’ Conversely, maybe community is the direct opposite of separating yourself from people you don’t understand through violence. Maybe it’s about the peaceful inclusion of the unlucky, the needy, or the weak; about losing yourself in someone else’s challenges; about trying to understand.
Community in all its forms seems to be about widening your personal circle and embracing the foreign. It just so happens that you may encounter personal renewal along the way.