A Nourishing Soup With No Set Recipe
By DIANE C. MCPHAIL
Who of us doesn’t love a potluck gathering: the unexpected surprises in flavors and people. At home, I make “potluck” soup. After meals, some tidbit is generally left. Even one green bean goes in a freezer bag marked “For Soup.” There is no recipe for my soups. There is only that bag of what-have-you, but the result is always filling and fulfilling.
Our community is like that soup. We each bring a different flavor to it. There is no recipe. One definition calls community “the condition of sharing certain attitudes and interests in common.” For those of us on the plateau, there is a shared interest that the good we experience here be available to all. That includes medical care, availability of nutritious food, literacy, legal services, the well-being of children, creativity, and emotional/mental health. It also includes a foundational commitment to the well-being of animals, trees, land, water, and the very earth that sustains us.
Whether or not we work directly with any particular nonprofit, we likely enjoy the remarkable benefits afforded by various hard-working groups: sumptuous dinners, music of all varieties, craft beer nights, challenging races, golf tournaments, flower shows, creativity—exhibitions and competitions of all sorts. We may hike the town greenway or well-maintained trails in these beautiful mountains. Many of us are grateful to provide grandchildren time in our well-stocked libraries, to explore the Botanical Gardens and Nature Center, to play in our beautiful town parks, to turn raw clay into beautiful forms. We may thrill to great classical music or tap our toes to Bluegrass. Lectures by renowned speakers and authors may intrigue us.
As we enjoy these nonprofit enrichments, we may be unaware that elsewhere in our community “soup,” an older dyslexic man is so proud to at last learn to read; an unsmiling boy who has been bullied because his family cannot afford braces is now beaming because of free dental services; an abused woman and three children, with even their pets, are finally safe, sheltered, and assisted in creating a new life. Elsewhere a young man, with the help of a competent counselor, is making amends with his wife, and a marriage, perhaps a family, is preserved. In a medical clinic staffed by volunteers, an uninsured patient waits to be seen, diagnosed, nurtured, and restored to health. A family that might have gone homeless due to job loss is able to negotiate new rents with the help of available legal services. Somewhere on the other side of the globe, a wheelchair is delivered to someone who has never been past their own door; a child is saved from crippling, perhaps deadly effects of polio. A school is built, a hospital where none was.
What goes into my soup is unpredictable, never the same. I love making that variable soup. I love the differences each pot requires, the adjustments I make, the seasonings I choose. The only things necessary are my commitment and my love of the process. The same is true of the communal “soup” of our nonprofits. They feed and nourish this plateau, including every one of us, in ways we cannot fully define.
If time is what we have, there is no recipe for how we give it. We may welcome patients for medical care, participate in building a structure to house family pets for those fleeing violence, manage donated items of clothing or household goods and their sales to help provide financial aid for our graduates. We might find ourselves folding informational brochures, stuffing envelopes, getting them stamped and mailed to appeal for funding.
If we make donations, like the widow’s mite, even the smallest, like my single bean, makes a difference. Numerous small contributions make a huge difference. A combination of small donations combined ultimately matches a large, generous one. The difference is that the soup is richer, fuller, more nourishing because a whole community has come together in a unity of sharing.
The list of our plateau nonprofits which commit themselves to these and other needs is a long and wide-ranging one. The stories of the difference these organizations make in the lives and life of our area —individual and communal—could fill this publication, if not an entire book. You and I, whether we know it or not, are an integral part of that difference—by participation or by monetary and volunteer support. Not only are others nourished. So are we. Let us involve ourselves generously.