Wednesday, September 20, 2023

What Matters?

One of the things that I am lucky enough to get to do at this stage in my life is give back. These days, it's even occasionally able to be financially. For a lot of years, my ability to give was primarily of my time. I didn't always have extra cash to donate to a cause I believed in, but by golly I could volunteer my heart out.

This is not to toot my own horn, let me be clear, but I wanted you to have a touch of background before I got into the next part.

I had an exchange recently about an event that was coming up. Some new information had come up about the event, and I felt a little disheartened because I knew that there was going to be a group that would have limitations around this last minute change. It was not anything that was going to diminish what was happening, or take away from the joy that that group would get to experience, but the change could have allowed for an even greater sense of community, but because it was so last minute there was no time to adjust.

I was bummed. The idea of community was a real root to the entire activity. I mentioned my disappointment on a social media site, and I got a response that reminded me of how differently people view certain things. 

The response I received was very much from a place of privilege. A lack of understanding. I'm not entirely sure, for all I know it could have even been a place of disdain, but I like to hope that it was just misunderstanding.

Sometime ago I had a post show up in social media that was an image, a wooden picket fence that had been spray painted with the words "It shouldn't have to happen to you for it to matter to you." It's stuck with me, because there are a bounty of problems, or things I view as problems, that have never been my personal problem, but that are real and valid for others.

We're a pretty knee-jerk reaction society. Big on instant gratification. We want information, we go to the internet. We want something to eat, we go to the drive-thru. We have become very accustomed to having what we want or need very quickly. Not everyone has that same privilege. Not every household has access to the internet. Not every family has a car to take them to a drive-thru, or money to spend if they were to get there. Not every home is "traditional" (in my definition of traditional- knowing that traditions also cast a wide net!). That doesn't invalidate the experiences of the people who live in that home.

I want to encourage you to look beyond your own personal experiences, and really see those around you. We have opportunities to learn from one another all the time, but we're so busy defending our personal reality that we fail to acknowledge the reality of someone else. Be open to differences, be receptive to information, and be willing to understand that your own lived experience does not negate the lived experience of your neighbor anymore than their experiences negate yours. 

One of the most effective ways I was able to open my own mind and heart to the experiences of those around me was to give my time and spend it with my neighbors. If you have opportunities to volunteer, or give back, or just spend some time listening and learning within your community, I can't encourage you enough to jump all over those.

Blessed Be. 

A wooden fence is spray painted with blue paint to read "It shouldn't have to happen to you for it to matter to you."

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