MK is happy. It has been warm enough that I have been able to keep the door open most of the day and rain or not, she has been busy running in and out of the cave. I love it when she comes bouncing in all stiff legged, tail donut tight, looking over her shoulder with the utmost offended expression. This usual occurs when someone has dared to walk by the yard, typically some 40 feet away from where she is.
It has been a long winter; I have plans during the coming months for changes to be made in the cave for the next. Not to mention, a little drywall on the walls to make the place look a little less…ahhhhh…cobbled together. But it is all good.
It is windy, warm and there is a flood watch. Spring is here. In Rhode Island, we have about a week of sunny transition from winter before we head into the spring rainy season. It will rain 3 days out of 5 for the next month or so. Everyone will be happy with the warmth for about 2 weeks before we begin to complain that we feel moldy.
Talking about the weather is one of our greatest social gifts. It gets pooh-poohed a lot as being “meaningless” and “trite” but it is in this simple shared description of the weather (or not shared) that we begin to meet on common ground. As Chesterton points out, the King and the Pauper share the same rain and, trapped together for a moment, have that common experience to talk about. The weather, the natural world, is one of the great reminders of our common human experience. Talking about it can put people at ease and open doors to more complicated communication.
I am…have been…turning something over and over inside me and examining it for about a week trying to come to a place of peace with it. To make a long story short and to avoid trumpeting details, I have been nominated for recognition for some things I do offline as a volunteer. It has, just the knowledge of the nomination, been a source of struggle for me as I try to navigate my emotions and rational understanding of what it is to be humble, what is humility, what is right pride and what role public recognition plays in community service.
I try, as hard as I can, to keep the majority of my private life – private. Alot of the understandings that I arrive at that come from events in my private life make it into the blog, but rarely the specifics and events themselves. Or if they do, they tend to be after the fact and placed in service as “illustration.”
I volunteer with several different groups. None of them has anything to do with poetry (or if they do, that is not my role). It is something I began doing because it has become important to me to put the life behind the words I speak and, to do things for others that are not directly about me and that do not become about me. I may have a very broad and eclectic skill set but I find many places that need volunteers do not need specialists; they need people willing to do anything.
And my own life has grown from these experiences in ways I expected and in some ways I did not foresee; because the ways one can expect are, at their root, coming still from a kind of selfish need for control and surety. The changes wrought by it all that were not foreseen have been the most…dramatic. No years of therapy have brought about the decision and commitment to change in some areas of my life as the guerilla demands for change that volunteering has ambushed me with. Then again, it was the years of therapy that I needed to get to the point where I could step outside of my specifics and simply bring my being to service.
Now, one of the groups would like to see me recognized for it, on a state and possibly national level, and that immediately set off an absolute ping-pong of emotions and thoughts. It boiled down to a basic fear I was only barely aware that I had – that without anonymity I would not be able to sustain the effort, that once the “I” is there, in black and white and over a loud speaker, that it would somehow get sucked into the maw of my more personalized, public and self-centered life.
Do you know what made it ok? I found out that two people from another group I volunteer with are also nominated and we all got excited that (although at separate tables) we will all be there that night, sharing in the celebration.
I realized that it would take the kind of person I am not to make it about myself. Even if I wind up with some kind of thing with my name printed on it what I will see written all around that type will be the names of all the other people who are not volunteers. The names of the people who have chosen to make what I do in my spare time their life work, that are not paid well or recognized or held up to others as some shining example. I realized that when one of us gets recognized, it is also about recognizing them. What they do, as a job, in some ways is too large to grasp by our society the way it is today; it is easier to understand the choice of the volunteer then the commitment of the employee. Even if I do not wind up with my name in shiny big print on something, I have received the gift of being able to feel a part of something that both includes me and is larger than anything I can be.
Humility is found in recognizing where there is shared ground and effort. Pride is right when it is recognition of the self in fulfilling a virtue. Love lies in our ability to give to others and to receive without expectation. Empathy lies in acts given in response to what is needed and without consideration of the effects on our lives. Compassion is the wisdom of action found in the works of the hands, the placement of the body as a part of the path to help someone walk onto solid ground. Love is the knowing that you are a part of something but not the ends or the total means, it is being able to share in the joys and sorrows of the totality of a life outside your own and within your own as well.
c.2011 Cassandra Tribe. All Rights Reserved.