We get excited about a lot of things related to our Days of Service program. Seeing people serve. Watching a project site transform throughout the day. Giving people an easy way to get involved. These are all things to smile about.
But, you know what else is cool? A typical Day of Service project unites people that would have never met otherwise. It brings a diverse group of people together to work toward a common goal. Watching people from different backgrounds and experiences interact at a service project puts a big smile on our faces.
Our latest 9/15 Community Day of Service in remembrance of 9/11 was no different…
At the Battle Creek VA Medical Center, 14 students from WMU’s Mexican-American Community Association volunteered with two nonprofit staff, while veterans living at the Center played a mini-golf tournament around the service project. (Volunteers can roll with a scheduling conflict, no problem!) The veterans and the volunteers talked and joked around, while the volunteers weeded, raked, mulched and painted.
As the volunteers were wrapping up the project, the large group of veterans shouted their thanks to the group and gave them a round of applause. I wanted to cry. Volunteers gave 3 hours of their morning and then went back to their normal lives. The veterans lives have been forever altered because of their service. Wow.
At Mt. Zion, about a dozen ‘perfect strangers’ volunteered to spend the morning in the kitchen. Our service project was to work alongside fourteen young ladies from a group home in Kalamazoo as they participated in a cooking class. We worked together around the kitchen table cutting green tomatoes, learning how to pickle, sharing stories, laughs, songs and more laughs. Even though we had just met that morning, there was community around that table. Perhaps it was being in the kitchen that made me feel that way. Or perhaps it was the people.
At several other sites throughout the community, volunteers, young & old, professionals & students, skilled & unskilled, gathered to make our little corner of the world a better place.
It was a perfect way to remember the tragedy of 9/11, when cities, towns and a whole nation banded together. And a perfect reminder that we need not wait for tragedy to build community. The tools are always with us.