Holistic Hearth: Giving strengthens communities


I recently had the opportunity to volunteer my time and energy helping at a local buckthorn weed-out. Along with about 20 other nature enthusiasts, I helped haul freshly cut buckthorn, a highly invasive species of shrub, from a suburban tract of land recently acquired by the Milwaukee Area Land Conservancy.

My husband and I worked together, pausing to offer thanks for the enthusiasm of the volunteers and to bask in the slanting sunlight on the unseasonably warm afternoon.  As dusk approached, we gathered in the home of one of the MALC members to share camaraderie and delicious homemade pizza with other volunteers.

We listened to stories as we reveled in the cozy glow of the dining area, eating hearty slices of pizza topped with peppers, sausage and finely grated cheese. Though some of us had been strangers before the event, we were brought together by a common concern for conserving and protecting the native species of vegetation on local land. We quickly developed a warm sense of community as we worked and then relaxed together.

In the days following this event, I’ve contemplated the magical nature of giving. So often, it seems that a dream that might be difficult — or even impossible — for someone working alone to attain becomes a reality more quickly, with greater ease and with more enjoyment when people work together. The energy created by people working toward a shared goal can be a powerful, uplifting force for each individual involved.

Whether this shared energy moves one individual, a community or a nation closer to achieving greater sustainability, harmony or success, I believe that it is a phenomenon that can benefit everyone.

Though I will probably have to wait for the chill of winter to pass before participating in another conservation event like the buckthorn weed-out, I look forward to expanding the nature and range of my giving, now and in the seasons to come. I believe that when physical resources like money are limited or even scarce, gifts of time and generosity of spirit can fulfill individuals’ dreams and create vibrant communities.

In the spirit of this season of giving, I consider ways that I can share my time, energy and resources to benefit those around me. I believe that even small gestures like a phone call or handwritten note to a lonely or struggling friend can bring powerful and lasting relief. By reaching out to others — those close to me and those in the larger community — I feel I can set in motion a cycle of positive energy that will eventually stretch far beyond me.

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