My oldest daughter Sheridan got married last weekend and it was one of the most memorable times of my life, a real "family affair". Grandparents, siblings, nieces, husbands, and my children all worked together to make decorations, food, and favors ahead of time; then we put it all together and took it back down in a matter of hours. It was the best kind of celebration, with my daughters and son with his girlfriend helping one another, and my stepchildren pitching in wherever they were asked. By the time we returned home after the special occasion, it was time to jump right into work and the usual routine the next morning with only a little time for reflection. I made it through the week until Friday, when I worked with two skilled parent volunteers to host our twice-annual community service fair at the school. Twenty five community organizations manned lunchtime booths to promote volunteer opportunities for our high school students.
As one might imagine, by that evening I started to run out of steam. I struggled to find the energy to even drive home, and realized Saturday's plans might go on without me. The one activity I had wanted to do was a California-wide annual community service project with my church congregation; I suppose celebrating a successful event here will have to by my contribution.
Bob and the boys got up at 7:30 on Saturday and met at the church, where dozens of volunteers were sent to their locations: Montalvo Center for the Arts, or Mount Umminum. Either way, it would be a job of weeding, heaving, lifting, and moving. From nine to noon, fifty people from our congregation completed a total of eight spring clean-up jobs assigned earlier by the Montalvo coordinators, and another group just as large did restoration work at Mount Umminum. The hardest part about our site, according to Bob and the boys, was staying clear of poison oak. Sometimes we take for granted all the trails and walkways that are cleared of this noxious weed. These volunteers had no fear, trusting their gloves and a post-cleanup shower to keep them from infection. They also worked on repairing an overhang, moving a giant woodpile, and clearing a ditch what would have taken a bulldozer to accomplish.
At church today, I heard accounts of some other Helping Hands activities around the area, as far away as San Diego; more than fifty thousand members of our faith from all ages came together in an effort to be of service to our communities and especially for our state parks. A nearby young adult congregation rebuilt fences at Calero Park, making an assembly line with their leader's instruction and competing with each other to see who could build the fastest fence. In San Diego, the church volunteers were asked to serve breakfast and to work as course monitors for a community-wide 10K race. In my experience, having run many 5-and-10Ks, a race can never have enough volunteers! I'm sorry I had to miss our annual community service event due to my own physical exhaustion, but I am blessed with the perspective of an observer which allows me to contemplate the service that is given all around me every day. Because of last weekend and my benefiting from helping hands of family and extended family in support of Sheridan's Utah wedding, and after hearing about the monumental efforts of 50,000 church-member volunteers on one Saturday morning in support of parks and nonprofits in California, I feel blessed to be living in this time of abundant good works.
"By their fruits shall ye know them." (Matt. 7:16)