For those of you who read may blog through the year, you know that I am involved in several non-profits, one of which is a non-profit for veterans that sponsors an event to honor veterans every 4th of July weekend. It happens within a community on Lake Gaston in Virginia.
We were unable to do the event last year and there was a significant response to our missing event. It features flybys, paratroopers, honoree events, live music and a significant fireworks display, all to honor our vets who have given their lives in order to protect our country.
I spent this past weekend in that community meeting residents and discussing our event with them. I was overtly impressed with how much they valued their community, expressed concern about each other, wanted to help our veterans and would do almost anything to support our community event. It was overwhelming to see such passion, enthusiasm and deep commitment to their community.
When any of us or any organization are working to establish a community event, we must not forget the community voice. In fact, there are usually a number of voices within one community. As they speak, often with passion and express feelings and experiences, it is important to listen, keep relevant to their concerns and hear their stories.
I was impressed with how they perceived our work and they surprisingly wanted to join us in ways that could be very helpful. They were open to discussion, expressed their support and offered resources that we did not expect. Listening to their voices was revelatory about what they did in their lives and how willing they were to share their resources, skills and efforts.
As much as I know how important listening is when orchestrating a community event, I was reminded how generous and gracious people can be and how much they have to say that is both extremely important and helpful. It was well worth my time to engage into their world while we were simply connecting and building a relationship from door to door. I not only learned who they were but also how they wanted to relate, in a personal way, to our mission and our event in general.
It reminds me how important bringing communities together can be. We spend so much time being divided that we can easily forget the many ways that we can enjoy each other, enjoy community events and be together for a day to celebrate. In fact, positive community events can bond a community and strengthen relationships. Maybe there would be less violence and more constructive dialogue if we could hear our community voice represented by all those many voices and find ways to connect our common aspirations.