I got an unexpected call Monday. The annual Lions Club fair is coming up next week and I was expecting to be called to schedule my shift scooping ice cream. It’s loads of fun – you get to meet lots of people (yay people watching!), get free ice cream, and all the proceeds go to benefit our Lions Club and the charities they support. There’s even fireworks, which I have to admit I still totally enjoy. What’s not to love?
But the call I got wasn’t to work a shift, it was to manage the whole ice cream booth as the person who usually did it has just moved to another town! Not only was it short notice, but no one had yet been scheduled to work any of the shifts. Needless to say, I’m scrambling to get enough people to fill the slots and I’ll be working every day next week for all of the shifts.
I say this not to complain – I’m happy to help and I know we’ll pull together and find folks willing to fill the slots. That is the point – even though it’s overwhelming, I have zero doubt that the community will pull together and this will happen. One of the things that I love about my small town is that they still believe in community and in relying on each other. A lot of the folks I’ve talked to have said “let me see if I can think of anyone else who is willing to help, too”, and they’ll be reaching out to help spread the word.
As preppers and homesteaders a lot of what we do is very internally focused. Often preppers don’t talk about what we do because of “op sec”, (operational security – so that if things really get bad others don’t know what they have and won’t come take it). As homesteaders we’re focused a lot on what’s going on here on the homestead, doing chores, working on projects, fixing broken equipment, and so on. We may not have the time or the inclination to look outward. But we need to do so.
Not only does it help us to be well-rounded people, but there’s some enlightened self-interest going on here. By serving our community we make it a better place for us to be. We learn what’s normal and typical for our area so we can spot changes in the pattern more quickly. We build social capital so that if we’re ever in need we’re “reaping what we’ve sown” instead of mooching. We can make friends – yes, IRL friends! – who will be able to advise or help us and will bring us the joy that friends do. We establish ourselves as reliable, useful people to have around and so in an emergency people might listen to our suggestions. We learn to rely on other people and not feel like we have to do it all ourselves. It’s a good reminder that we all have something to contribute, something worth sharing, too.
We also keep our communities from dying. If people aren’t willing to do the work, then communities go away and our towns and institutions start to decay. The things that build that “small town” vibe are shared experiences like the Lions Club fair or the Memorial Day Parade done by the American Legion, or our twice annual town fests. They bring people together in positive ways, contribute to the local economy, and help foster a sense of identity. Unfortunately, one of the downsides of globalization and instant communication worldwide is that we are losing the sense of being part of a small, local community. If we don’t serve our community we lose touch with the world around us.
In today’s world it can be hard to understand what service really means. It’s not just doing things for others, but doing things that make the whole community a better place. When we come together, when we all pitch in, that’s when we recapture the old sense of community that many of us are missing these days.
There are many ways to serve, of course. Service clubs are a great option (if you’re not familiar with groups like the Lions Club, the Kiwanis, or Civitan, etc. they’re worth looking into). Many religious organizations have service-focused arms. Then there’s groups like Habitat for Humanity or Meals on Wheels that could always use help. I’m sure your town or neighborhood has its own organizations, too, that would love a volunteer.
So I challenge you to find a way to serve your community. Where can you step up and save the day for someone?