Ham and cheddar quiche. Maple roasted butternut squash with bacon. Watermelon and grapes. Veggie strata. Blueberry cake and apple cake and pumpkin bread and muffins. Coffee. Lots of coffee. My friend Donna and I hosted breakfast at the community center yesterday morning, dividing the work of crafting a home-cooked meal for our neighbors, served buffet-style. A group of about 12 of us take turns preparing food to share, brewing the coffee, setting the tables. It’s a weekly fundraising effort, as each attendee tosses a couple dollars in the basket to support the upkeep of the building – fixing the water stains on the vestibule ceiling, repairing the steeple, installing a new front door – and allowing us to host some truly wonderful gatherings for local families, free of charge.
It’s most certainly about more than the money, though.
We don’t have sidewalks or stoplights here in our town. There’s one store, one restaurant, one class per grade in the elementary school, and nowhere left open after about 7pm. There are a whole lot of things you won’t find here.
What you will find is a roster of volunteer drivers to take you to a doctor’s appointment when you need a lift, and another organized group of helpers who will test your smoke detectors or bring you a bucket of sand for your icy walk. At Christmas, you’ll find a party and tree lighting for the whole family, complete with cocoa and crafts, Santa and gifts. The food bank, the library, the fire department – all supported by volunteers.
I think it’s even more than that, however.
It seems to me that none of those efforts are accomplished through a desire to check a box, get your hours in, contribute your share. I don’t see my neighbors chipping in simply to achieve their own feeling of fulfillment. Rather, I have the sense that there is a true commitment to community here. Needs are identified, and people band together to address and meet those needs. It’s not philanthropy through a registered non-profit for the sake of “giving back” to a faceless entity; it’s reaching a hand out to your neighbor, looking them in the eye, and saying, I see you. I’m here, and I’ll help. It’s true community, and we all rise together. Such a beautifully traditional system.
So I’ll cook for my neighbors. Quiche, fruit salad, squash with bacon – whatever it may be. We’ll make another pot of coffee, and welcome you at the door, every Saturday morning, because we are meeting a need: true connection with your neighbor over a home-cooked meal. I don’t think we can put a dollar amount on that one.