It's not what your community can do for you, it's about what YOU can do for your community; that's how I was raised. I don't know that these words were actually spoken out loud, but they were certainly implied and demonstrated in our home, in our community, on a daily basis. There was a day when each one of our small neighbourhoods relied on the volunteerism of its people to remain viable. While most of us may not remember, or perhaps not even been born, it was that willingness of our ancestors to contribute to their community that built and supported what we are now privileged to call 'home'. In most instances, there was no monumental act of selflessness; instead there were a series of small acts, when compiled, became what we know today as progress.
|Community Ladies Group - 1930|
|Edwell Community Hockey Team - 1946|
Somewhere along the line, we seem to have misplaced our sense of community. Where it hasn't been lost altogether, it has certainly been watered down. I came back to the community I grew up in some 12 years ago; to my knowledge the only thing our old community hall is used for is a venue for voting during elections and the odd rental. There is a small handful of people in the district who volunteer as caretakers; the last I heard, they are tired and would like to hand off the responsibility to someone else. Try as they might, no one seems willing to step up to the plate. Oh, what a sad state of affairs.
|Edwell School Picnic - 1959|
Here's what I want to know: When did we become a society that believed that we are entitled to so many benefits but without having to make any effort? When did we determine we were better off living disconnected from our community and in relative anonymity aka isolation? Why is it that, unless we can see a direct advantage to ourselves, we often decide most causes are not worth a wee bit of effort? We have more people living in our community than ever before and yet we can't seem to manage even a single annual function.
|Edwell School Halloween Party - 1958|
|A regional event for Cubs|
What started this particular diatribe was being asked once again, this very morning, to consider volunteering time on a local board or, at the very least, encourage others to do so. As I said, I already have volunteer commitments, however, it got me to thinking about all the opportunities I had growing up that were the sole outcome of the work of my parents and other likeminded community volunteers. It got me to thinking that I put out very little effort but benefit greatly by the efforts of others. It got me to thinking that, perhaps, I could do a little more.
So it came as a bit of a surprise to discover, this very same morning, that the City of Red Deer is thinking along those very lines. This year's theme, “Small acts build great neighbourhoods”, in my mind, pretty much says it all and the City has developed a great program offering opportunities to collaborate with your friends and neighbours in hopes of building stronger, healthier socially responsible neighbourhoods. If you are even remotely interested, check out the resources at the bottom of this article.
So here's my new commitment, to myself and to my community. I want to pay it forward. I want to give back. I want to REconnect with my community. How am I going to do it? I'm still working out the details on few ideas. It won't be anything grand, but it will be something. . . one small act, that's all we need to do folks. . . contribute one small act each . . . give up a wee bit of our time to the greater common interest . . . to our neighbours. . . to our community.
How about you? What are you prepared to do for the community you call 'home'? If you aren't sure where to start, here's a few ideas:
- Start small There are plenty of opportunities for a one-time commitments
- Start local We don't have to look very far to find organizations literally dying from lack of community support;
- Support your own Give back to a group that you are already involved with such as your local library or community hall;
- Follow your own interests If you enjoy painting, perhaps volunteer at a local non-for-profit art gallery. Love reading? Volunteer in a reading program or a local book club. Love animals? Most local humane societies and organization are in dire need of volunteer support. Are you a visitor? There are some very lonely people in the world that would love nothing more to have you spend some time with them;
- Learn by volunteering Opportunities that will offer some training. If you want to know more about gardening, volunteer with a community garden. Looking to learn to ride a horse? Assisting with a local special needs program will certainly increase your exposure and open opportunities;
- Exploit your travel bug Many professional organizations, schools and religious institutions sponsor opportunities for volunteering from a few weeks to several months ;