There’s a food pantry in a town near mine that does tremendous work. The people involved with the food pantry don’t just distribute baskets of food. They help people with their problems, acting as counselors and emotional supporters for people who are really struggling.
I’ve had the opportunity to help that food pantry in a few different ways. I’ve helped them distribute holiday food baskets. I was also involved with helping them secure a new home when their original location became unavailable. We’ve also donated items to the pantry.
Those were minor steps, of course, but they pay great dividends.
A few days ago, I was having a conversation with another unrelated person in the community. This person was talking about how his family felt really welcome because so many people had helped them out when they needed it. One of the first people he mentioned was one of the two core people behind the food pantry.
I played a very, very minor role in the success of that food pantry, but I felt really good hearing this person’s story. It was because of my small action – and the small actions and big actions of a lot of people – that this family felt welcome and secure during their difficult time.
The invisible threads of community are everywhere.
Whenever I walk through the park near my house, I get to enjoy the clean sidewalks and nice gardens. Some of it is done by parks and recreation staff, but quite a lot is done by volunteers.
Whenever I’m in a short term bind, I have several different neighbors that I know well. I’ve stopped next door for emergency babysitting, batteries, a shovel, extension cords, advice, and many other things. They’ve done the same to me, too.
I know that if I ever needed food or shelter or clothing for my family, I could find it in my community.
These things have tremendous value, but they don’t work unless you contribute, too. If you just take these things for granted and don’t give yourself, they start to disappear. The quality slips and people feel discouraged. When one neighbor shuts their door, others often follow suit.
The best way to make a positive community around you that gives you value is to give of yourself.
Volunteer at the local food pantry or at the soup kitchen. Volunteer with the parks and recreation department or with the local schools. When a neighbor needs a hand, offer it.
Sure, it will eat up some time and energy, but it’s time and energy spent doing something positive without spending money.
It rubs off, too. When people see others giving, they’re more likely to give themselves. Over time, the threads of community draw people in.
It is always up to you to make that choice, though. It all starts with you.
Help a neighbor. Spend an hour or two volunteering. It will feel good, you won’t spend any money, and everyone benefits. Over time, others begin to notice the change, too.
The invisible threads of the community are stronger than you think.