Community-Based Lessons Learned

ruby apple picking
Me, Apple-picking for Rachel’s Table

By Ruby Maddox

It’s been some time since my last post. Mostly I’ve been thinking long and hard about how to further develop this blog so that it’s useful and relevant. My initial thoughts had been on setting up a few interviews with folks engaged in community organizing or some sort of affiliation with community-based organizations. After what seemed like several road blocks and unfortunate life events I became completely stalled. And then this weekend happened…

I’d been crying out to the universe for help; some way to move this process forward when, fate, work, and my own tendency to over-commit stepped in.  In one weekend I found myself volunteering for my church’s spaghetti dinner, sitting in on a community service orientation workshop for college students and volunteering for my organization’s Shared Harvest Fundraiser. This was also the weekend I decided it was my job (it kinda was) and mission in life to bring a group of college students on a volunteer trip for Rachel’s Table.

It was a weekend full of inspiration. Not just for this blogging process but for own personal development as a community service worker..um…engagement person…uh…citizen? The point is that I expected to have a lot of the answers in doing this blog and even in volunteering. I expected that my work as a program coordinator in a liberal arts college might translate into my ability to assist with the organizing of a church spaghetti dinner. (It didn’t.)  And with all my planning and organizing for this volunteer trip I had to deal with a barrage of mishaps in trying to transport 11 students 40 min off campus. (A feat finally accomplished with the help from a dear friend and colleague on campus.)

It ALL worked out.

What I learned from the weekend and the workshops (yes, designed for college students doing this for the first time) that it still has to be about building relationships. Indeed it’s what saved my volunteer trip and made the “Shared Harvest” event such a success. Asking something as simple as  “How was your day?” can be the first step in building and working in community versus showing off how efficient, skilled, and “community savvy”  you are.  Sometimes that part can’t be rushed. And it won’t be neatly packaged for convenience. It is a process.

My final tidbit, during this weekend I virtually ran into everyone I considered interviewing or had requested an interview from. I felt this must be a sign. I gently reminded them about my request but it no longer felt as urgent or crucial. It was kinda nice just to connect with them in person.

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