Community Caring

Sniffle, sniffle… I was deeply touched this past Tuesday evening when my community where I live paid tribute to me for service at a surprise recognition event. Here’s the back story…

Years ago, I joined a community group that worked on issues relevant and important to the livelihood, safety, and livability of the geographic area where my spouse and I built our home and have lived for almost 20 years, and where I lived long before I met the man I married.

I was elected to a non-partisan position — the leader of this group — and served one four-year term of office back in the ’90s. I mentored someone who was elected to serve in my place after I stepped down (and did not run again for that office even though there were not term limits.) I continue to serve as an old sage adviser with that group, and still sometimes appear before our elected county government officials to testify about various issues. I write letters and emails and make phone calls — yep, I’m still involved.

My neighbors and friends, fellow civic leaders, appreciate my steadfast engagement. They also value that I have some skill in defusing tension and finding ways to reconcile differences. I do not solve all problems or conflicts, but I guess that I can say that we have much more civility and cooperation than can be found in other areas of our county, state, or country for that matter.

The motorcycle crash that I had occurred on a date when that group was scheduled to meet. When I didn’t show up at the meeting that evening, the group’s leaders were concerned and one of them called to check on me. They were aghast to hear that I had been injured and was out of commission for an indefinite period.

During my down time and without my knowledge, they organized a recognition for me at a special meeting. They secretly worked out a ruse with my spouse’s cooperation to get me there. When I got home from work yesterday, the spouse said, “isn’t the testimony about that emergency bill about the firehouse renovation going to be discussed at (this organization’s) meeting tonight? You’ve worked on that so hard. Let me take you to the meeting since you are concerned about driving at night while you’re recovering.”

Man… I didn’t even think about going anywhere. I was frustrated and a bit angry that I would have to miss the meeting, but in my current state of rib fracture recovery, I was not really feeling ready to drive at night. I also have not returned to my usual level of stamina. But the spouse offering to drive? Whoa! That’s HUGE since he stopped driving three years ago when his illness prevented it. So I agreed, and said that I would like to go for the first part of the meeting when the testimony will be finalized, and we could leave early.

I prepared dinner and after we finished and cleaned up, off we went. BTW, I was dressed casually in denim jeans, golf shirt, and Wesco combat boots. Why those boots? They lace up and are easier for me to wear considering the persistent swelling of my left ankle.

When I entered the meeting room, I was warmly greeted by my friends and neighbors. I carefully motioned them not to hug me. Hugs are also a casualty of rib fractures. My spouse waited quietly in the back of the room as he usually does at public venues. After the pre-meeting chit-chat, I settled down in the back of the room with my spouse and waited for the agenda item about the firehouse to be called.

They proceeded as normal with roll call and approval of past minutes. Then the Chair announced, “let’s take a moment now for something not on the agenda.”

Then he turned to me and asked me to come forward. He said, “Your smile and cheer has always buoyed our souls. Missing your ‘we can do this’ attitude left us feeling adrift when you were away recovering from injuries from your accident. With absence of your spirit, we realized just how much all of us look and listen for you and to you and we came to understand how much we depend on your guidance.” (I have these words verbatim because someone recorded it and sent me the video.) Then he presented me a certificate and a card signed by the organization’s leadership and most of its members.

I was speechless. Tears began to roll down my cheeks. My spouse handed me a handkerchief.

I accepted the certificate and a round of applause from the some 50 people there. But I still couldn’t form words. The Chair said a few more things, then I finally recovered enough from the surprise to say, “I am grateful for the opportunity to serve, but mostly, I am grateful for your love and support. Thank you.” And that’s all I said or needed to say.

These days when there is so much turmoil, tension, and strife in our country — so much downright hatred of people who follow one religion or who are gay, lesbian, or transgendered — it is both heartwarming and confirming that the community in which we have built our home and in which I have built my life is solid, committed, and beyond accepting. I’m not “that gay guy” involved in these things. I am their neighbor who knows a thing or two and has been around the block once or twice. I appreciate being recognized for my service and love being part of a community that does not engage or support hatred and bigotry.

Life is short: make your community your own by being a leader and contributing service.

This entry was posted in Home Life by BHD. Bookmark the permalink.

About BHD

I am an average middle-aged biker who lives in the greater suburban sprawl of the Maryland suburbs north and west of Washington, DC, USA.