The students from the University of Missouri who spent a month in Cape Coast, Ghana, this summer went to serve and learn. They used their skills to address urgent needs and, in so doing, learned the power of an individual to make a positive difference. As Catherine Rolfe remarked, “It’s amazing how much a simple gift…can mean to a child.” Whether a gift is a rhythm band instrument or time spent one-on-one teaching a child a basic skill, the sharing of ourselves reaps benefits to both the giver and the recipient. That’s the amazing power of giving.
Not all of us can travel to another state, much less another country or continent, to participate in a service learning project. Happily we don’t have to. Opportunities galore present themselves where we live. All we need do is open our eyes wide and take a fresh look. If you live in a city, as I do, you’ll not need to go far before finiding more opportunities than there are days in a week. Not all will appeal to you. That’s to be expected. We each have different skills, talents, and passions, and time and energy to share.
Within a mile of our home is an exquisite three acre public garden that demonstrates what can be done when dedicated people band together to effect change. Once upon a time, long ago ~ 1902 ~ this land was part of a 10 acre estate complete with a 17,000 square foot, 50 room mansion and extensive landscaping. Then in 1961, the house was razed, and the three acres became a vast vacant lot. Forty years passed.
When the city was able to lease the lot, the city councilman for the district recruited property neighbors Betty and Charles McKenney to spearhead a committee to determine the best use of the space. Community members wanted passive development, and Betty suggested a garden. Thus began an ongoing project that finds countless volunteers and city employees working together on creating and maintaining a water-wise garden in harmony with our climate. The McKenneys became the Constant Gardeners, their project an ongoing pursuit, and their passion a gift that truly keeps on growing and giving. Needing inspiration for finding a project near you that matches your skills and passions, time and energy? Visit Arlington Gardens on-line. Time spent in a garden is time well spent, whatever the motivation.
Volunteering takes many forms, from formal committments requiring specific training, as does being a docent at a museum, to informal, as is driving someone to a medical appointment. All are valuable gifts.