Monday, February 05, 2007

opening a door to let someone in

It's been years since I actively participated in a canned food drive. I used to run the ones in high school. Even got a chance to deliver the cans to the food bank and met some of the families that would receive the food.

The ProsperityShip (my name for it), the Prosperity workshop group, is holding a grocery drive for needy families this month. And I've put up a sign outside my cubicle with a can of tomato paste on top.

I don't sit in my cubicle often since my work involves being out and about, but every few days or so, I come back and the basket I set on my desk has a few more cans. Today's catch was 4 cans of soup and a can of diced peaches. I even set out a bowl of chocolates next to the basket to thank people who bring cans just in case I'm not around to say thanks.

But today I was sitting at my desk, and a woman on the floor stops to read my sign. And she tells me, oh, I have to clear my mother's cupboards anyway, I'll bring the non-perishables to you. We chatted a bit about her mother who had passed last May at a fine age of 84. I didn't know. How she had gotten rid of the perishable items in the fridge, but clearing out the rest has proven to be slower going. She talked about how it's still hard for her to think of her mother gone. How she willed away the significant stuff but the rest, the rest of the things that make up an every day life, they still have to deal with so they can eventually sell the house. Her mother didn't want anyone living there. What to do with her Sunday hats and her clothes? The things accumulated that made up her mother but individually don't bring about any special memory or significance.

And so back to my sign. Often in these drives for canned goods or for sweaters and jackets we think of the people that will receive the things we are giving. For those that have the means, to be able to share a bit of what we have with others. But in talking with my coworker and listening to her need to deal with her mother's death, I also began to think about the opportunity that a canned food drive opens up for others. It's an opportunity to open ourselves up and be giving. In this case, an incentive to go to her mother's house to find cans so they can now go to someone else who will be able to have them for meals. It's giving her a chance to do a bit of remembering, a little bit of letting go, an opportunity for perhaps a little bit of peace.

She didn't seem ready to clear out her mother's home completely. But here's this opportunity with a deadline, and a feeling of being connected with other people, that is giving her a bit of courage, to do this one thing. When we ended the conversation, you could see that in her heart and in her mind, yes, she could do this one thing: clear out her mother's cupboards for canned goods to bring to work. That clearing the cupboards wouldn't be as lonely as she thought.

On the first day of the ProsperityShip, Tuhan said there were three rules;

  1. Do something.
  2. Have fun. Experience joy and happiness.
  3. Take a little risk.

And so Tuhan sends an email declaring the canned food drive. I read the email and I did something. I put up a sign. Set out a basket. Took a bit of a risk doing that. Not huge, just a smidgeon. Enough to make me wonder if anyone will read the sign or if anyone will bring any cans. Then someone else and maybe a few people did something. They read a sign. They brought in cans. And maybe they felt good doing that. And maybe they took a piece of chocolate and enjoyed the chocolate. And now my co-worker read the sign. And maybe she'll do something too. Maybe take a bit of a risk that her heart is afraid of doing. It snowballs like that. And I look at the cans that I have so far, and strangely enough, I can feel the other people. I can feel their actions, their joy, their risk to be giving. It's not alot and it doesn't have to be alot to make a change. But it adds up. There's a cumulative factor.

We are always looking for opportunities to do something, but more often than not we don't do anything because we don't want to do it alone. We need to feel a human connection. I remember often viewing it as look for opportunities, look for that open door, when one closes another opens. But what if, what if, it's not so passive, you to wait for a door to open. What if you're supposed to be the one to open the door for someone else to walk through.

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