Today I participated in “Day of Caring” ,sponsored by United Way, for the first time. Last month I officially became a United Way Ambassador for my department at work. Lilly Pharmaceuticals has a long association with United Way; and more than any thing else I am proud of my company’s fierce dedication to philanthropy. Philanthropy is defined as “good will towards the human race” or “active efforts to promote human welfare.” My company encourages its employees to have this mindset when we are at work and in our personal time. So as our kick-off activity, Lilly invited their United Way Ambassador teams serve in Day of Caring today. My team went to an early education center downtown that provides day-long enrichment programs for infants-preK. We had a tour of the facility and then were ushered out back where we were armed with shovels and rakes and set to work spreading two mountains of crushed rock over an empty lot. A liquor store had been razed and the empty lot will serve as the daycare’s new parking lot. This was phase 1 of preparation.
I do not exaggerate when I say those piles of rock were at least as tall as I am and proved a daunting challenge for the 20 of us with only shovels and rakes. We went at it and a couple of people went to procure wheelbarrows to help with transporting the rocks. It was grueling, back-breaking work, and a few hours in we still hadn’t spread half of it. We were cheered on by our own encouragement to each other and the honking of cars that passed (In Indiana, this is the way drivers celebrate something they like as they pass by). A random guy from the neighborhood stopped by to see what we were doing and then went on his way. We continued to slave away at the rock pile. Then the harsh sound of an engine was heard on the premises and the man who had stopped by earlier had returned with a bobcat because, as he put it, he wanted to help too. He proceeded to spread the rock for us and we followed behind, raking and spreading it evenly. I can’t tell you how much his help meant. We would still be there if he hadn’t come by and decided to spend his morning helping us. I’m so grateful for his help and his heart.
The irony of this is that we were there to help this community and to share our time with them. In reality, this man from the neighborhood embodied a “day of caring” more than we ever could. He noticed us, was interested in what we were doing, saw a need, and found a way to participate too. We had gone there to help them, but he helped us. A man who, truth be told, I would probably be afraid to meet on the street, laid aside his plans for the day and joined with us to serve. And I’ll keep this moment in my heart. The day a stranger became a friend. The morning when a community was forged, even if just for a few hours. This is was “Day of Caring” in the flesh. I had heard someone just a few days ago say that service was not an end in itself, but a means to foster community. I’ve pondered hard on the truth in that statement. Isn’t this all what we experience when we give of ourselves? We think we’re doing the other person a great favor by meeting a need, but in reality, they are the ones that end up blessing us. True service isn’t a one-way street, it’s a joining of hands to attain a common goal. At the end of the day what matters isn’t what we accomplish, but the strength of the relationships we form while working. It’s not the magnitude of the work, but how many we take with us. This morning showed that truth in action and it’s a lesson I won’t forget.
Blessings to you,