How can hundreds of diverse people with differing backgrounds, experiences, opinions, and values come together? Organizations like The Caring Place are often a common ground. A place where people from a spectrum of backgrounds come together to better a community, to solve a problem, and to offer their hearts in caring. This idea of coming together is often not what we think of when we think of such diversity, but it does happen. In fact, as a nation of people, we find it happens even more in times of heartache.
Leaders are often where we look in hard times felt by the masses. I remember September 11th, 2001 with clarity, like most Americans alive at the time probably do. Certainly, this is an example of a hard time. A hurtful event in which we all struggled with the ‘why’ and the ‘how could you’ of the situation. A nation mourned together and vowed to never forget. One leader we turned to at the time was President George W. Bush. President Bush, in an effort to rally a country in pain, encouraged us to take action by serving. In his 2002 State of the Union address, a few months after the 9/11 attack, President Bush issued a challenge to all Americans to make time to help their neighbors, communities, and our nation through service.
At the time, I worked in a Texas community which believed in the culture of volunteering. We built an entire event around the idea of encouraging a body of people to volunteer. Volunteer for anything! Whatever you have a passion for, whatever made your heart sing, wherever you felt could make a difference. And, people did. They came together for common causes, they came together to help, they came together with a goal to make the world a better, safer place.
Today, 17 years later, I still remember President Bush's words and I still believe serving offers is healing. I still fondly wear an old t-shirt promoting a "Volunteer Fair" in The Woodlands, Texas where I lived and worked at the time of 9/11. And, I still work in a field and in a community where volunteering is important and means something, but now it's Georgetown, Texas. Since 2001, a lot has changed, but seeking words of comfort in sad times hasn’t. The most recent event in politics flooding our media has been the passing of Senator John McCain. Another event, although a different kind, when eyes and ears seem to turn to those in a position of power. President Barack Obama was asked to say a few words at the McCain funeral and one statement stuck out to me, "Eventually, though, he (McCain) concluded that the only way to really make his mark on the world is to commit to something bigger than yourself." I think we all often ponder what our "mark" will be, but the idea of something being bigger than yourself is a thought I am drawn to. It's something I even say to my children to raise them as community members that always look at a bigger picture; a picture that extends beyond the immediate wants and needs of a typical teenager.
Leaders understand volunteering as a way to heal or bring community together. You've probably read a similar quote from beloved Mister Fred Rogers, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping’.”
I'm grateful for these voices. Whether they are politicians or children's television heroes, the voices that remind us to help others and to commit ourselves to something bigger are important ones to me. So, as we once again remember the events of September 11th, 2001 on this anniversary, remember what helped our hearts mend and how friends came together through service.
Many of you may have begun a life filled with service back in 2001 or before, or maybe you are in a season now where volunteering is where you can begin to make your mark. I encourage you to follow your heart and volunteer where you feel led!
And, of course I would be remiss if I didn't mention we have volunteer opportunities at The Caring Place. It is after all why on a rainy Sunday afternoon in late August I suddenly started thinking about volunteering due to the upcoming September 11th anniversary. The opportunities here are vast, and we always look forward to having new volunteers with an itch to help neighbors in need at a local level. Maybe, this is your mark.