Lots of people take that as a thing we do as payback for wrongs we may have committed and as our way to repay the larger community for those wrongs, making them somehow right with that effort. But Thomas Jefferson thought differently, “There is a debt of service due from every man to his country, proportioned to the bounties which nature and fortune have measured to him.”
True service to community can be made and has been served by singular individuals as they sign up to serve America, not for an afternoon, but for whole stretches of their time. Not too long ago some of that service was not voluntary, not by personal choice, but the choice made by the military during periods when the draft took personal choice out of the dynamics of a person's required service to America. This week we honor those who took those oaths for military service by choice or not. They did their time and are honored publicly for it and sometimes simply when, "Thank you for your service" is uttered to a veteran.
But there are other ways to, as my Dad and Uncle Charles would long be quoted after a hot summer afternoon in the hay meadow, "There ought to be a better way to serve the Lord..."
There are other ways to be of service. After a few hours of Bell Ringing with the Salvation Army outside busy stores, and your own ears ringing for a time afterwards, or the times you bent and stooped to pick up trash along a stream or river, knowing there would be a need to return to that thankless chore. Service organizations perform their commitments of service in a multitude of ways.
Our Veterans are honored this week for their service and also this week the State of Oklahoma honored two of our own for their service in this community to promote the arts, and our lives are richer for their efforts. Both Barbara Smith and Ann Neal received well earned recognition with our governor and other elected officials.
In our little office on A Street, we held a simple ceremony to recognize the three year commitment Martin Lively had given LEAD Agency as a member of AmeriCorps/VISTA. Two of our board members were present, Kelda Lorax and Jill Micka, who herself had previously served LEAD Agency as a VISTA for two years a decade ago. Service should be acknowledged, and in our modest way, we did that in what I believed would be respectful and appropriate for the times we are living. Our newly elected board president, Earl Hatley zoomed with researchers from Wellesley College, Siena University and Silent Spring Institution to acknowledge and celebrate ending Martin's VISTA service and to congratulated him on the transition to a new position with LEAD Agency.
Martin is a Miami High School graduate who attended Grinnell College, received a law degree from Ohio State University, practiced law for eight years in Georgia before coming back to Miami to care for his ailing grandparents until their passing. It was at that time, we asked if he would like to do something totally different and serve a year as a VISTA with LEAD Agency, he accepted and stayed two more, not so much for LEAD, but truly in service to America at one of the largest and most complicated superfund sites impacted by extreme flooding in the country.
“I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.” ― Albert Schweitzer
I truly believe my two years served in Teacher Corps on the Southern Ute Reservation set my path to a life made joyous through service.
And what do we take from Martin's service?
Trust youth, follow, guide and ride along with them as they take over, carrying on tradition, bringing new ideas and making the trail a little wider for the ones who we know will follow. That 7 generations thinking kicks in at LEAD Agency. The work we do, we may never live long enough to see finished, but those who follow will and their environment will be better and their lives longer and healthier.
Historian Howard Zinn understood the bigger picture and how each of us can do our part with our “Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.”
This place is worth fighting for and we need our elected officials to join in that fight with us as we become stronger together, each doing our bit to serve the greater good.
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim