Building CommUNITY p1 [v68]

OCTOBER 2004

BETTER TOGETHER—Throughout history, progress and even survival, have at times depended on collaboration. When environmental conditions, competition, or other circumstances have made life more difficult or resources scarce, great civilizations and ‘movements’ have been developed by people uniting together for a common purpose. Progress was often accompanied only by a ‘UNIFIED’ effort.

Abe Lincoln said, after his debate with Stephen Douglas in 1858, “With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it, nothing can succeed.”

In the recent past though, some ‘communities’ (any group of individuals or families working toward a common goal) lost sight of their own capacity. They partially lost the requisite self-efficacy (belief in their combined ‘power’) and democratic participation to solve problems and expand “capacity'”.

“The irony of democratic participation over the past 40 years is that while both the public (government) and private (professional/specialists) capacity to assist with and attempt to solve the ills of urban and rural communities has risen, the capacity of the actual community to help itself has declined. Local democratic participation has decreased. Individuals no longer see themselves as part of a community of shared values and norms. Individuals have lost the conviction that they can influence the events and circumstances of their lives or the world around them” [Gardner, 1995].

But communities today, much like great communities of the past, are finding great ‘successes’ by uniting, and are encouraged by the discovery, building, enhancing, and expanding of existing, strengths, assets, and resources.

I have heard the following story a number of times in the distant past. It can be found all over the Internet and, as far as I can ascertain, the author is unknown. I also do not know for sure of it’s accuracy, however, it demonstrates well the point I am trying to make. It has been called, “The Sense of a Goose.”

“In the fall when you see geese heading south for the winter flying along in the ‘V’ formation, you might be interested in knowing what science has discovered about why they fly that way. It has been learned that as each bird flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the bird immediately following. By flying in a ‘V’ formation, the whole flock adds at least 71 percent greater flying range than if each bird flew on its own (People who are part of a team and share a common direction get where they are going quicker and easier, because they are traveling on the trust of one another).

Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to go through it alone and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the power of the flock (If we have as much sense as a goose, we will share information with those who are headed the same way we are going).

When the lead goose gets tired, he rotates back in the wing and another goose takes over (It pays to share leadership and take turns doing hard jobs).

The geese honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep their speed (Words of support and inspiration help energize those on the front line, helping them to keep pace in spite of the day-to-day pressures and fatigue).

Finally, when a goose gets sick or is wounded by a gunshot and falls out, two geese fall out of the formation and follow the injured one down to help and protect him. They stay with him until he is either able to fly or until he is dead, and then they launch out with another formation to catch up with their group (If we have the sense of a goose, we will stand by each other when things get rough).

The next time you see a formation of geese, remember…It is a reward, a challenge and a privilege to be a contributing member of a team.”

As is pointed out in this example, it seems to me that we humans are similar in ‘nature’—that is, we are not meant to be ‘lone rangers’ going through life on our own, but to be in “community” with others. I don’t think we can fulfill the ‘purpose’ for our lives unless we are ‘connected’. We really do NEED EACH OTHER—and we are much BETTER TOGETHER!

This so happens to be one of the primary things we will investigate during the “campaign” I invited you to participate with me in at the beginning of this newsletter. Called the “40 Days of Community,” its main ‘thrust’ is to deepen the sense of love and community with each other, and secondly, to take that ‘love’ and reach out to the community around us.

During the first few weeks we will be meeting together, we will look at how to develop deep, meaningful, and significant relationship with others. As some of you can probably attest to, one can be a ‘member’ of an organization much of their life and never experience this—totally missing what it means to have genuine heart-to-heart ‘fellowship’. In fact, many primarily ‘social’ focused organizations are filled with lonely people—because ‘intimate’ relationship does not come with the membership ‘card’—it is something you have to develop for ourselves—and then to share our ‘findings’ with others.

In March 2002’s “Deep Thoughts,” I talked about a movie I saw, “Pay It Forward.” It’s the story of how a twelve-year-old boy, Trevor, who believed in the goodness of human nature, set out to ‘change’ the world. He accepts the challenge that his seventh grade social studies teacher gives his class—a chance to earn extra credit by coming up with a plan to change the world for the better and to put that plan into action.

The idea he comes up with is so simple and so naive that when others learn of it they are dismissive. He even begins to doubt when his “pay it forward” plan seems to flounder on a combination of bad luck and the worst of human nature.

So, specifically, what was his idea? Well, Trevor chooses three people for whom he will do a favor. Then when those people thank him and ask how they might pay him back, he will tell them that instead of paying him back, they should each choose three people for whom they can do favors—in turn, telling those people to also “pay it forward.” It’s nothing less than a human ‘chain letter’ of kindness and good will.

In the end, “Pay It Forward” is the story of seemingly ordinary people made extraordinary by the simple faith of a child. In the tradition of the successful inspirational television shows, the movie “Pay It Forward” is a work of charm, wit, and remarkable inspiration—a story of hope for today and for many tomorrows to come. [Note: Below are links to the movie web site and a foundation that the author of the book started].

Actions do have consequences. Even though ‘everything’ isn’t under one’s control, I have found that one can change the world, however small, for the better—especially unified with a “small group.” This is a ‘safe’ place where each person is, like the geese, honestly interested in the others in the group—and wanting the do what is best for them. In turn, contributes to the ‘connectedness’ of the small group as a whole.

Now, let me let you in on a little ‘secret’ I have learned in my years on the planet…Everybody craves acceptance (read love)—everybody. No matter how rich, famous, or physically attractive, we all long to belong—and when we are ‘truly’ accepted, it increases our joy, enlarges our perspective, reduces our ‘stress’, and causes people to ‘blossom’ and ‘grow’. Then, this ‘attitude’ usually prompts the person to a willingness to share this new-found ‘joy’ with others (as was depicted in the “Pay It Forward” movie)—and then one usually wants to do so with the people that helped them achieve that joy—their small group.

Fortunately, when we ‘serve’ together, there are lots of benefits. It makes us more effective, and we get more done. It multiplies our time and energy. We ‘compensate’ for each other’s weaknesses, and are able to ‘support’ each other when the “going gets tough.” We can also be more productive by the combination of our talents and the sharing of our ‘resources’.

Someone once said that snowflakes are frail, but if enough of them stick together, they can stop traffic! I can’t do a whole lot on my own, and you can’t do a whole lot on your own. But together we can make an impact—and with a half dozen or so more ‘team’ members, we can make a MAJOR IMPACT!

A few years ago, ‘deep down’ I felt I was just “going through the motions”—making a living, NOT making a life. I was determined to change that!

I read a book by Tom Paterson titled, “Living The Life You Were Meant To Live.” It helped me take a long, honest ‘look’ at my priorities and ‘natural’ abilities, and how I could change from being just a ‘spectator’ in life, to being a PARTICIPATOR in the larger ‘community’ of life—to serve others with the gifts that were ‘bestowed’ me.

Hopefully these “thoughts” have provoked and piqued your interest in joining me on this 40 day ‘journey’ (and maybe even prompt you to take a look at your ‘mission statement’ for your life).

There is amazing and exponential ‘potential’ when a group of people ‘coalesce’ in a common vision—and, in my opinion, much greater than even nuclear power! Because when people ‘band’ together with love and service being their ‘guide’,  they are unstoppable!

It has been said that to build a strong ‘community’, there are nine characteristics:
– AUTHENTICITY; sharing true feelings
– MUTUALITY; encouraging each other
– SYMPATHY; supporting each other
– MERCY; forgiving each other
– HONESTY; speaking the truth in love
– HUMILITY; admitting our weaknesses
– COURTESY; respecting our differences
– CONFIDENTIALITY; not gossiping
– FREQUENCY; making group a priority

Come and help yourself, a group of others, and me put these ‘characteristics’ into action, and ‘realize’ what true “community” is. Maybe you might even discover a new ‘purpose’ for your life!

So, combining your unique talents and unique perspective with those in a small group, while developing real ‘fellowship’ with the ‘members’—learning to love one another as yourself—I am confident that we will find out together WHAT ON EARTH ‘WE’ ARE HERE FOR!

[Excerpts from: communitycollaboration.net; Rick Warren ]

If you would like to investigate further what it really means to “cultivate community,” visit the following link:
http://www.spiritedesign.com/pdl
NOTE: Click on “PURPOSE #2, then select CHAPTER 19:

Blessings…Mark

LIFE’S DEEP THOUGHTS (v68) for OCTOBER 2004
If you have a ‘neat’ story or some thoughts about an issue or current event that you would like me to try to respond to, I would be glad to give it a try…so, send them to me at: mbesh@comcast.net

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“40 DAYS OF COMMUNITY” SPECIFICS:

WHO:
-You (and maybe invite your spouse, a family member, a friend, or an acquaintance)

WHAT:
– Weekly ‘discussion’ group with video ‘teaching’ materials
– ‘Workbook’ with  a daily reading and journaling option
– Develop a plan for a specific ‘project’ that we can implement in our surrounding community (let’s say the Detroit metro area for some ‘boundaries’)

WHERE:
– Mark Besh’s place (16 Mile and Drake – West Bloomfield)

WHEN:
– October 11th through November 18th
– Monday or Thursday nights from 7PM – 9PM

WHY:
– To answer the question, “What on earth are WE here for?”; to develop deep personal relationships; and to be a ‘benefit’ to the surrounding community

Call me at home (248-788-1758) or just reply to this e-mail if you have additional questions of would like to tell me which night you will be coming.

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HOW TO BUILD COMMUNITY
– Turn off your TV
– Leave your house
– Know Your Neighbors
– Pick up litter
– Greet People
– Share what you have
– Mediate a conflict
– Look Up when you’re walking
– Honor elders
– Sit on your stoop
– Help a lost dog
– Take Children to the park
– Plant flowers
– Use your library
– Play together
– Read stories aloud
– Support the neighborhood schools
– Have pot lucks
– Buy from local merchants
– Garden together
– Fix it even if you didn’t break it
– Seek to understand
– Start a tradition
– Dance in the street
– Talk to the mail carrier
– Listen to the birds
– Put up a swing
– Ask a question
– Help carry something heavy
– Barter for your goods
– Organize a block party
– Hire young people for odd jobs
– Ask for help when you need it
– Bake extra and share
– Sing together
– Share your skills
– Open your shades
– Take back the night
– Turn up the music
– Turn down the music
– Listen before you react to anger
– Learn from new and uncomfortable angles
– Know that no one is silent, though many are not heard
– Work to change this
[http://www.syracuseculturalworkers.com ]

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HEALTH BENEFITS
To live in community with others benefits one’s health significantly. That is a finding reported in “The Journal of the American Medical Association. “Building on a dozen studies correlating friendship and fellowship with health, a new study has found that people with a broad array of social ties are significantly less likely to catch colds than those with sparse social networks.” reported “The New York Times News Service.” “The incidence of infection among people was nearly half that among those who were relatively isolated, the researchers reported. The lack of diverse social contacts was the strongest of the risk factors for colds that were examined, including smoking, low vitamin C intake, and stress.” Reportedly, one of the main beneficiaries of a broadened network of relationships is our immune system. In another study, Dr. Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, director of health psychology at the Ohio State University College of Medicine, and her husband, Dr. Ronald Glaser, a virologist there, “have reported that a person’s immune response to vaccines increases with the strength of his or her social support.” As always, when God tells us how to live, those guidelines are for our own good. Church involvement contributes to our health!
[Craig Brian Larson]

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Disease is spelled DIS-EASE

Triumph is spelled TRI-UMPH (Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken – Ecclesiastes 4:12).

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BUSH’S FAITH-BASED AND COMMUNITY INITIATIVE
Our country is blessed with a long tradition of and honorable commitment to assisting individuals, families, and communities who have not fully shared in America’s prosperity. But despite efforts by the Federal and State governments to battle social distress, too many of our neighbors still suffer from poverty and despair. In every corner of America, people of all ages and walks of life are calling out for help…

Priority Areas
The White House Office strives to support organizations that serve people in need, particularly those that serve the following populations:

– At-risk youth
– Ex-offenders
– Homeless and hungry
– Substance abusers
– Those with HIV/AIDS
– Welfare-to-work families

… Assistance may also be available from one of over thirty organizations funded by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Compassion Capital Fund. These intermediary organizations have received grants to provide training, technical assistance, and sub-awards to a diverse range of faith-based and community organizations seeking to increase their ability to provide social services to those in need. Technical assistance activities are offered free of charge and focus on strategic planning; financial management; board development; fundraising; and outcome measurement. You can learn more about the Compassion Capital Fund at
http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocs/ccf/ .
[White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives]

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PAY IT FORWARD FOUNDATION
The Foundation comes into existence at a time when many people, though aware of the need for social change, are unsure of where and how to begin. The challenges facing the majority of today’s youth are daunting. While discussion and planning are positive steps toward belief in social change, only the manifestation of plans into action proves to the imagination that change is possible, that will and motivation can affect social growth. The Pay It Forward Foundation understands that good ideas inspire good ideas, and serves both as a forum for inspiration and a source of funding for the development of inspired ideas.

Students will have the opportunity to identify what they consider to be the challenges of their communities. They might tackle such problems as homelessness, pollution, youth violence, literacy issues, the loneliness experienced by long-term hospital and nursing home patients, and the alienation of today’s at-risk youth from the community. The Pay It Forward Foundation will provide seed money for such worthwhile projects.

Charitable pilot programs and local and national academic projects are already being developed, as are plans to bring Pay It Forward education and action programs into middle schools and juvenile detention facilities–with the intention of encouraging and empowering all youth to believe in themselves and their individual and collective abilities to shape the future.

http://www.payitforwardfoundation.com/

MESSAGE FROM THE AUTHOR
The Pay It Forward Movement is the real-life reaction to the release of my novel in early 2000, followed by the creation of the Pay It Forward Foundation, followed by the Warner Brothers movie. I didn’t write the novel expecting a social movement, but it’s certainly been exciting to watch it grow.

The purpose of the Pay It Forward Movement web site is to bring together, in one place, as many real stories as we can. This serves several purposes. It helps the cynics see that Pay It Forward really is working, not just around the United States but around the world. It brings much-deserved recognition to those doing the work, and puts the results of their efforts out in the open so others can be inspired. It’s also a source of some good news for a change, a way to renew your faith in human nature.

Bear in mind that I only know the Pay It Forward stories that someone took the time to report. I’m guessing that’s somewhere in the neighborhood of one in a hundred spontaneous acts of kindness. What you see on this site is barely the tip of an iceberg.

Know someone who is Paying It Forward? Please write and let us know. We will get the news to as many people as we can.  [Catherine Ryan Hyde]

THE MOVIE
It is a wonderful movie—well worth you time. It stars Kevin Spacey as the teacher, Helen Hunt as the mother, and Haley Joel Osment as the boy. Check out the web site for additional information:

http://payitforward.warnerbros.com/Pay_It_Forward/

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DEEP THOUGHT:
What you are is God’s Gift to you. What you become is your gift to God.

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I have sent this “Deep Thoughts” to you a bit early because of the opportunity I wanted you to know about.

It entails coming together with like-minded people that are interested in learning more about how we can be of ‘service’ to our surrounding community, while developing closer relationships with others. We will meet once a week, for a total of 6 consecutive weeks, and develop a ‘plan’ (or a few) for our group to be of some kind of benefit to others ‘outside’ our group.

If you are interested, please read the details I have provided right after the following “thoughts.” I hope you can ‘find’ the time to join me in this, and be an “evlogia” to those in need.

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I hope you enjoyed some of these insights. Share them with your friends and colleagues, so we can have a larger ‘pool’ to receive from—and more to share with! Also, remember to include your name as the “source,” especially if some of this wisdom is of your doing—I would like to give credit where credit is due!

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” [1 Corinthians 13:4-13].

Mark

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Disclaimer: All the above jokes & inspirations are obtained from various sources and copyright are used when known. Other than our name and headers, we do not own the copyright to any of the materials sent to this list. We just want to spread the ministry of God’s love and cheerfulness throughout the world.

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