Most times you can’t see into the future.
You don’t aways know which choices you make and actions you take will “pay off.”
In my experience, there are a few that are absolutely sure bets, no regrets choices.
And they are volunteering with friends, neighbors, and other community members to create spaces to welcome everyone in the community to come together to play, to learn, to celebrate, and to work on accomplishing goals that serve needs greater than your own. To do hard things together for the greater good that lasts beyond your use date.
Building a community park is one way to build community while building skills for lifelong learning and modeling for our children the value of engagement, giving back, and physically contributing to future generations.
I didn’t realize how lucky we were when our newly adopted town began a community build park project almost 30 years ago. I was totally excited about engaging the children’s imaginations and the community in designing and building the park, but as an overwhelmed new teacher I was not thrilled about adding evening volunteer hours to my already crazy day.
“We don’t even have kids yet,” I thought. “Can’t just donate money and let someone else do the heavy lifting this time around.”
Thank goodness my tired and cranky excuse making self did NOT win out.
My hubby and I talked about all the reasons why we – well he had already signed up, I should help too – for the good of the community – and why it would be good for us. We were planning to have kids, we wanted to get to know more young families, we wanted this town we’d chosen to be the best it could be.
And we did, and it was good.
It was so exciting to be a part of building something big, and real, that you could touch and see everyday.
When we took our toddler to the park, we could touch the stairs and the stage and say, Look, see Daddy helped build this part! You could see the puff of pride that turned into a sense of wanting to protect and care for this park that was part of our family history.
Since I lack building skills, I took shifts in the food service area. Which was perfect for me after a long day at work. I could help while chatting and meeting new people. The organizers had done all the hard prep work giving me the opportunity to just show up and help with no stress on my part. Now I understand what a gift that was!
And now – another gift!
A group of young moms, not me, took on the responsibility of not only saving this treasure of a park which had exceeded it’s lifespan but also giving new generations and all of us in the community the gift of participation.
There’s been more than a year’s worth of planning, fundraising, and preparation.
It’s been fantastic to see how much the community has come together to support this work. Read about the Winters Friends of the Library involvement here.
And the build – the fun part – is next week! And we get to help, again!
Pierre, who has skills, is already signed up to be a team leader. I’m signed up for some unskilled shifts.
If Dale was still home and an unschooling teen, you can bet the whole family would be signed up for every single shift.
And if he was here as a teen in school, he’d be signed up for every shift that worked with his schedule and what ever else we could add.
Of course there is all kinds of skills to be learned that I’ve written about before.
More importantly, because this is the kind of lifelong learning, participating in real world projects where you apply your skills to make a difference that is the most meaningful, especially for our teens.
It’s even meaningful for little ones who aren’t old enough to be at the build. If you take them by to watch what’s happening, you can help them understand how you are contributing as a family.
The moments you volunteer together matter. The causes you care about and show up for matter.
And every time you attend an event at the park, or even pass it as you drive through town, you get a hit of goodness.
We built that.
We were part of that.
We did it together.
It belongs to us and we belong to this community.
And we care about our future.
And that is a good bet!
Are you within driving distance of Winters and want to help?
Other ideas for participating in building? It doesn’t have to be a park. You can look for opportunities with Habitat for Humanity, volunteering with reconstruction and clean up after storm events, or create a project that your community needs.
Have you participated in a build? With your kids? Would you?
Please add your ideas and suggestions in the comments!