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community service MLK personal development personal engagement personal engagement service learning volunteer

You Don’t HAVE To Volunteer

People want to accumulate engagement and experiences of engagement like they collect stuff, thinking all the time that the more they gather, do, think, talk about, wonder, and dream, the more engaged they’ll become. The Heartspace Teachings show that engagement is happening here, right now, in our day-to-day movements and ways of being. All of it, sacred and profane. There’s nothing more to do.

Striving as we do though, people always want something more. That’s not wrong, but it’s not true to engagement. We are already engaged right now. If we want to become more so, then so be it. But we’re all already engaged right now. As I often do, I look to history to teach me about these things.

Monday is the official MLK Day holiday here in the US, and millions of people across the country we be doing community volunteering work with King’s adage, “Everyone can be great because everyone can serve” hanging in their imaginations. They believe that by doing community service work, they are becoming more engaged in their communities, and that is true.

What isn’t true is that community service is the only way to become connected to the people around us. Dr. King was well aware of this, as he acknowledged it too. He wrote, “In a real sense, all life in interrelated… We are inevitably our brother’s keepers because we are our brother’s brother. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”

This interrelatedness means that anything you do with another person, place, thing, or idea, that leads to a sustainable connection is something that engages you to others. You might be volunteering or giving money to strangers, and those things are engaging you in your community. But King’s philosophy of interdependence shows how we might also become engaged by helping a neighbor hang Christmas lights, babysitting a baby niece, or helping your disabled friend go grocery shopping.

So don’t worry about it! Just keep doing the things that you’re doing right now, unless you want to do something else. Then do that. But either way, don’t rely on any prescriptions, pathways, or perspectives that would force you to follow a particular avenue towards becoming engaged. Heartspace always shows the way.

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!

By Adam F.C. Fletcher

I'm a speaker, writer, trainer, researcher and advocate who researches, writes and shares about education, youth, and history.

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