The end of the calendar year, when holiday celebrations come to a close and the days begin their slow ascent to light again, is a time most of us use to calm ourselves and re-evaluate our lives over the course of the last year. A time to reflect on how our decisions and our patterns have served us well, or in some cases, not at all. It’s a time for list making. Things to be saved. Things to be discarded. Relationships with ourselves and those closest to us are weighed and evaluated; we make plans to leave what no longer serves us behind, and plans to be more dedicated to those things we believe will make us and our circumstances better.
All that planning and all those resolutions are then put into action New Years Day, or for those of us who enjoy wine, whisky and Scottish revelry at Hogmanay, on January 2nd.
I wrote down my resolutions, focused on my life and what I needed to keep, throw away and start excelling at. I implemented a plan to accomplish concrete things I have control over, like my behavior, my patterns, my approach to life, work and love.
It took me until a few days ago ~ not quite two weeks into the New Year, but close ~ to realize focusing solely on me, on my perceptions, on the things I want to help with, make happen, and see come to fruition was part of life, an essential part, but hardly the whole picture. What I was focusing on was more like a two dimensional circle drawn on paper than a sphere or a globe.
Thank the powers that be that life isn’t flat. We don’t live in a two dimensional world; relationships are neither flat nor two dimensional. They are full and multi-faceted and often messy. Comparisons are pointless because someone else will always have a life more full and there will be others with lives much more messy.
So, where is this rambling mess of pontification leading you rightly ask? It’s my way of forgiving myself for being more self-absorbed than I should be, and my plan for how to change that.
Relieving the Distressed...
That is the mission of the Saint Andrews Society of the City of Milwaukee, of which I am a member. It is a Scottish charitable organization with branches throughout the world. The seeds were planted here in 1847 when Alexander Mitchell rallied the local Scottish COMMUNITY in Milwaukee to raise funds for famine victims in Scotland. The COMMUNITY effort raised $512.00, which was a significant figure in 1847. It took a dedicated group of people to make that happen.
At Monday’s meeting I was asked to be part of a small sub-committee to look into ways of relieving the distressed in our community. I’ve been thinking about that ever since. Wounded Warriors was mentioned as a place to start. I said nothing then, but my first inclination, was, great, that’s a cause no amount of money or time could satiate...it’s also a cause everyone knows about and most would contribute to. Excellent. Now how do we focus that momentum on our individual vets on the street?
Maybe they will rethink having my voice heard at the table, but I want to focus on the vets coming out of the rescue mission not on the cause itself. I think if we can put a face on it, whatever the “it” is, we can help.
One life, then two, and so on, right here. Locally, or to serve a local need. This is where we live after all, shouldn’t our service go into our communities to make them stronger? Yes.
But again that’s only part of the picture. I realized that over e-mails with other authors here at Main Street who are also committed to relieving the distressed. I find my mind and my heart growing, hopefully in a more open way, while still wishing to serve my community.
I’ll figure out how to help, that’s not what this ramble is about. It’s about communities and relationships, how we define them and how we engage within them. Charity. Giving. Causes. We all give time and resources, even if it’s nothing more than change in a Salvation Army pot at Christmastime. We all burn out on requests for giving which seem to be endless...Girl Scout Cookies, Boy Scout Wreaths, Little-League candy-bars, School Band wrapping paper or pizzas...and these are just the ones our children, grandchildren, neighbors hit us with. The checkout lane requests for books for foster children...a dollar for MS, or Children with Cancer, the list goes on. It can be exhausting...and often is, because as much as we wish it were otherwise, most of us can’t give financially to everything we think we should. No one can. Even Bill and Melinda Gates have to decide where the billions of dollars their society has at its disposal should go.
So where do we go from here...what CAN be done?
Whatever you can, when you can, without guilt that you couldn’t do more. Giving, thoughts, prayers, time, resources (soup-books-clothing-change) energy...it’s all good.
An easy way to do this, which costs nothing, is to simply ease someone else’s day. Answer that e-mail where someone says offhandedly that they or a member of their family is ill with a simple statement like, “I hope you feel better soon. Sending good thoughts.” Or how about when that clerk at the checkout is being harassed by the person in front of you and it’s your turn to check out, when they ask, “How are you?” answer with “Very well, how are you?” Jezze this sounds trite...
Worse than that, it sounds like I’m channeling Pollyanna. It’s a good thing that I write romance because some times I don’t belong in the “real world”. I get it. I do. It’s the BIG things that change the world, not empathetic e-mails or smiles at check-out clerks.
Individual action does matter. Those thoughts, those prayers, those smiles, they matter to the person receiving them and they make those who give them feel better too. That’s a Win~Win, no matter how small. The big things matter as well. They are best accomplished by a group coming together as one to pool their resources to target a group in need of assistance. E pluribus unum - from many, one. It's a powerful statement. World changing even.
At Authors of Main Street, we are looking to pool our resources and help where we can. We are a COMMUNITY, diverse in membership, but united in our desire to put more love and romance and community out into the world.
Here are some of the BIG things I put time into. I’d love to hear what is important to you. (Via the St. Andrews Society: Ronald McDonald House, Bells for Salvation Army, Soles for Jesus...shoes for third world, financial assistance to local members of our Scottish Community who are suffering hardship. Personal & Family: Arthritis Research for a Cure, Volunteering at the VA, Alzheimer Research for a Cure and Knit for the Needy. Via Macski’s: coming in 2014~Scottish Community Dinner, we serve dinner for anyone who needs a meal and The Average Joe Scholarship funded in part by our upcoming Macski’s cookbook).
There is no limit to what a group of committed individuals can accomplish when we work together. May you year be filled with more resources than you need, more friends than you currently have and more opportunities to make your communities stronger. Slainte~2014!