Today has been such a jam-packed day that I feel like this could be called the “Thursday Thousand”…yet I can’t even think of what to say for the three. How to sum up the week in a few paragraphs? That sounds nearly impossible. So instead I’ll just spout some basic life lessons and call it good for the day.
1. Be right with your people. Those people in your life that you want to have relationships with, whether it’s your family or your friends–make sure to get right with them. There will always be something else to do and another to-do list to cross off or another idea, creative project or work responsibility to tend to. But in a week, month, year, decade, whatever–it’s those people and those relationships that you’ll care about most, so care about them now.
2. Community is both created and pursued. There are seasons in life when maybe community happens more naturally, be it in college or during the “best summer ever.” But more often, finding and being a part of a community requires intention, thought and time. You have to seek community, even when it doesn’t feel like it’s ever going to pay off. Finding community sometimes means finding a lot of rejection first. And then, once you’ve found it, you have to be willing to accept it and fully participate in that community. That takes an incredible amount of effort, transparency and perseverance, but ultimately, it’s worth it.
3. Creativity matters. We need creativity to solve problems, to find inspiration and to lift our spirits. That creativity comes in so many forms and can be absolutely amazing. It drives me crazy to think that people can put creativity solely into an artist or craft box. You have creativity in you. Don’t let the artists, musicians, writers and designers be the only ones who take ownership of the word. You are creative in some way, I’m positive, and you need to use that for the benefit of both yourself and others.
I’m so glad to have a blog because my little vocal chords are so tired. I lost my voice earlier in the week and just haven’t quite managed to recover yet. But, it’s been a great and full week. Here’s the tops.
1. Parental visits make you really assess your life. My mom and stepdad visited us over the weekend for the first time since we’ve moved out here. We had to really think about what we wanted to show them and navigated all through the Triangle so they could see our favorite spots around town. It reminded me yet again how glad we are to be here and just how much we’ve gotten to do and see. They met our friends, enjoyed our Saturday routine (sleep-in, bakery visit, wine tasting and walk through town) and got a glimpse of our lives. We also spent a little time moseying around like tourists and later watched the Iowa vs. Iowa State game from our favorite neighborhood restaurant. Go State!
2. The more involved you are in the community, the more you feel a part of the community. Whether it’s volunteering or going to an outdoor festival, do what you can to be in the community. We’re fortunate to live near downtown and there always seems to be a street festival, concert or something going on. But even if you live in a rural area or in the suburbs, there’s likely something going on in your neighborhood or a place that could use you volunteering. This weekend we walked to SPARKcon, a creative art/music/dance/drama/you-name-it festival and enjoyed seeing all the sidewalk chalk art, the handmade art (jewelry!) pieces and a pyrotechnic show.
3. When given the chance to join in on new cultural experience, take it. Some good friends of ours are getting married this weekend, but had a Vietnamese wedding ceremony here before we all head to the beach. Both the hubby and I are actually in the wedding party and were delighted to experience a Vietnamese ceremony for the first time. The bride wore red, family introductions were made and gifts were exchanged. The hubby even got to carry in a tray as a part of his duties. I, on the other hand, had the duty of joining in pedicures and fondue with the girls later that night. We’re looking forward to celebrating with them some more this weekend!
A table can represent many things. Meals, bills, homework, art projects and board games all have a place here. There’s a lot of community that can happen around a table. When meals are shared, conversation often ensues. It’s a wondrous thing.
This is our table. I’m sure you thought I’d never actually get around to showing the inside of our home but here’s a glimpse, kitchen and all.
Food can sometimes make me feel like an outsider sadly. I’ve gone through bouts of serious sickness in the past and have mourned the loss of several food types. It’s easier than it was at first, but sometimes it’s still hard to keep going. While I haven’t been sick as often or intensely, I have to keep with it. Crazy food restrictions are still there. Sometimes I want to throw all caution to the wind and occasionally, I have. It ends in mixed results ranging from seemingly no change to an onslaught of sick.
At first, our meals with others seem to revolve around what I can and cannot eat. It’s a good story but by the end of the night it can be pretty exhausting to relive it all again and go through all the ins and outs of it. When just about every meal you share with someone involves you talking about all of the things you can’t eat, it can get overwhelming.
So, while I’d love to paint this beautiful picture of all the table can mean in community, it’s not the whole truth. It IS a wonderful setting for community and many meaningful things have happened there, but it’s also a hard and painful place for me. Food has caused so much stress and frustration, both as a result of eating it and of avoiding it. It can make me feel so disconnected from people, whether it’s because my meal will inevitably be different or maybe even because I have to physically leave in order to find something else to eat since nothing on the table will work. Yet at the same time, people have rallied around us and have been so kind and thoughtful as we’ve fought to figure this all out. There’s really been so much love and for that I am so grateful.
In the end, the table is a complicated place. Community and relationships are equally complicated. People have shortcomings and insecurities that cannot be as easily hidden in real relationships. Ultimately, it’s worth it to share in community and come to the table.
As much as I love my faraway friends (and I really truly do), neighbors matter. They are the people you see from day to day. The ones who hear your music and make your mouth water when they fire up the grill. We were lucky enough to move to a neighborhood where some of our friends already lived, but I’ve been thrilled to also meet the people nearby and on our street.
I’m a bit biased, but I already love our neighborhood. We live a mile from downtown in an area that might have once been less than desirable to live in. It’s an intentional rental community with apartments, townhomes and houses. Senior living, income-reduced, young adults, families—they’re all here in this neighborhood. There’s a college on one end, a mix of restaurants and a hardware store within walking distance and the new restaurant across the street from us. But mostly, I’ve loved getting to know the people who care about each other and about living here. It’s great to have the opportunity to hear about their lives, see their space and have someone say hello as you go to get the mail. Living in a community is an incredible thing.
Tuesday nights I leave work a little early and zip over to one of our area universities to learn all about nonprofit management. There I get to hear all about how nonprofits are supposed to work, some of the things they are great at and some of the things they’ve really messed up. All in all, it’s a good class (although I still haven’t fully adjusted to having homework looming over my head and all of my expert procrastinating skills have proven to be fully intact). I’ve learned a lot of things that maybe seem like common sense but also a lot of new perspectives on how some things happen the way they do in the nonprofit world. None of them are perfect. Actually, it’s a wonder some of them still manage to exist. Power, greed, scandal, disorganization, bankruptcy, fraud— you name it, the nonprofits in the world have probably struggled with it.
But there they are. There to serve the people, teach the children and fix the dogs. They do things that our government can’t (or won’t or shouldn’t) and allow individuals to be a bigger part of something than themselves. You’re looking to connect to people? To be a part of a community? Go ahead and start here.
Somewhere between 25-30% of adults volunteer in the U.S. I know we have jobs and lives and friends and whatnot. I know, I really do. And I’m not saying all nonprofits automatically make it good or worthwhile. The point isn’t volunteering somewhere for the sake of your resume or a bumper sticker. Be involved somewhere that isn’t about you getting something out of it. Yes, maybe you’ll learn and grow and have a changed life because of it, but volunteer so thatsomeone else can learn and grow and have a changed life because of it.
These are the kind of relationships and connections we need more of in the world. Because people matter.