Discover Community! Thankfully you do not have to travel far to find it! As it turns out, Community is right there, wherever you are! Whether you are someone who is rooted in one place, walking a well-worn path each day, or someone like me, who experiences travel to new places every month of the year, if you look around you’ll discover so many opportunities to connect. It’s up to you how deep you want those connections to be, and how lasting.
Create Community! In areas where the sense of Community is wavering, or never took hold, someone needs to take the first step, and it might as well be you! There are others nearby seeking the same connection, support and empathy that you are. It’s a matter of human nature that we seek connection. Those who feel alone or hopeless, overwhelmed or in need, may be waiting for someone to reach out.
Strengthen Community! It doesn’t take an enormous amount of time or effort to make a lasting difference. A feeling of Community that is deeper than just a surface connection may take time, but sometimes all we are looking for is a sense that things will be (can be) alright. If you have just an ounce of empathy to share, then share it. It’s needed!
The first present under my Christmas tree is for a senior citizen who would otherwise have nothing to open on Christmas morning. He’s a member of my community, but someone I will likely never meet in person. I wrapped his gifts and bundled them into one wrapped box, for ease of delivery. I enclosed a personal note, signed by myself and my fur babies.
My “adopted” senior asked for very little on his wish list – just a new set of bed sheets. His Christmas wish is something I have easy access to; it’s something that I already own, and have a backup for. I still have sheets on my bed when my “favorite” set is taking up space in my clothes hamper, or is wrapped in suds in my washing machine. It’s possible that my senior doesn’t have access to a washing machine, or the ability to do his own laundry. There’s a chance that he depends on a caregiver to take care of his most basic needs.
I hope they will open the Christmas package together, since his caregiver might be the closest thing he has to family. They will discover the hot chocolate mix I’ve enclosed, and will enjoy stirring the rich chocolate with the peppermint sticks added to the package. A quiet moment sipping a warm comforting drink, shared with compassion, at the holidays, could be the highlight of this man’s month. It could be the highlight of his year.
Shopping for this gift was part of what gave me a sense of Community. I was happy to purchase this gift at a fundraiser in the front lobby of a hospital I was visiting recently, in a small town in Western PA. The hospital auxiliary will receive 20% of what I paid for the bedding, greatly extending the scope of the gift that I am blessed enough to be able to give.
This year I’ve decided to handle Christmas a little differently than I have in recent years. I’ll give family small gifts from the many international destinations I’ve traveled to, or will travel to, this year – Costa Rica, Mexico, Canada and Cuba. But I’m cutting back on token gifts. I want to share experiences and special moments, including portrait sessions, with the people who are my special, personal Community, including family, friends, and social acquaintances.
One small gesture I decided to make was to partner with Besa in sponsoring a senior. “Besa is about engaging the people and causes around you. It’s about seeing your role in the community through a different lens. It’s about addressing the social problems that define our generation. It’s about making a difference in your life and your community today” (organization website).
Small gestures go a long way, and I was happy to learn that Besa’s 1,000 seniors were all “adopted”. With 300 more individuals wanting to contribute, the organization found more seniors who would benefit from their services, and connected members of the community with them. “Besa is a Columbus, Ohio based not-for-profit with a mission to connect more people to community service. We envision a world where giving back is part of everyone and everyday life.”
Walking into Columbus Foundation, the charity’s drop-off point, I ran into friends I had not seen in years, and it was a treat to exchange hugs and chat for a few minutes after the kids had their photos taken with Santa. I took Daisy Clark (15-year-old Jack Russell and Beagle mix) along with me to deliver the gifts, and she was welcomed as part of this special, charitable community!
Across town, others were working hard to fulfill the holiday wishes of 5 families, with more than 20 children among them, who will wake up to a very special Christmas. New boots and warm winter coats, a clean outfit to wear on Christmas day, and simple toys were requested – a board game, a new bike, a DVD for the family to watch together or a football toss around on Christmas morning. Simple requests like these will brighten what might otherwise be a dreary holiday weekend.
Century Body is a fitness studio specializing in Zumba, personal and group strength training, Pilates and the new Zumba Strong (see link below). The studio takes on charitable causes throughout the year. Students from Century Body have come together to raise more than $3,500 to make Christmas gifts a reality, by donating funds, supplies and their time on a busy Sunday afternoon in December. Most have contributed year after year, and wouldn’t miss the opportunity to support the community.
The yearly activity, of shopping for these families and wrapping the gifts, signed “From: Santa”, works to strengthen the bonds between the students as well.
During the month of December, “Community” can mean coming together to give back, or it can mean coming together to partake in the comfort of simple traditions, in celebration of the holidays. In German Village, just south of downtown Columbus, OH a holiday festival of light, food and music is underway. A steady rain doesn’t keep folks away. Luminaries are lit, to guide visitors along the old brick streets. Carolers sing holiday songs, while spiced cookies and warm cider are passed around. Santa puts in an appearance, the smell of pine is in the air, and local residents have hung twinkle lights, decorative wreaths and festive flowers.
The spirit of the holidays, and of charitable giving, is alive in German Village’s Golden Hobby Shop. “The Golden Hobby Gift Shop is operated by the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department as a non-profit consignment shop for senior citizens’ handcrafted items. Since 1971, more than 5,000 members have sold items through the Shop” (Columbus Parks & Rec site). Visitors are encouraged to put a large dent in their Christmas shopping, supporting the community of seniors at the same time.
Sometimes a sense of Community comes in the form of a warm bed or a simple meal. Seasoned volunteers keep things running smoothly in the pantry and in the soup kitchen at Columbus’s Faith Mission. Often a sense of Community grows from sharing stories, forming bonds, and growing connections. It’s a simple yet important act.
“Besa is an Albanian term in origin. It’s the belief that we can overcome our differences and come together to address the problems that plague our community” (organization website).
Travel and adventure can be amazing, but Community is grounding. This season, look around you, wherever you are, and find your Community!
Join me on my next adventure!
Volunteer Opportunities at Besa: http://www.givebesa.org/volunteer
Century Body: https://www.facebook.com/CenturyBody/
German Village Events: https://germanvillage.com/annualevents/
Golden Hobby Shop: https://www.columbus.gov/GoldenHobbyGiftShop/
Faith Mission: http://faithmissionofohio.org/