Last Saturday morning, my oldest son, texted me from his college graduation rehearsal.
“This really isn’t a big deal Mom, it is just symbolic.”
Now maybe he was just saying that because he was exhausted from finals. Or maybe he didn’t want to wear the tie I was suggesting. But I knew he was only participating in the ceremony at my insistence. And he wasn’t alone. I have many friends who have been disappointed by their children’s decision to not march with their class and share the commencement ceremony experience.
It is so easy to look at celebrations as frivolous in our hurry-up, too-much-to-do, save-every-penny, don’t-take-a-breath world. For community advocates and world changers, this feels especially true. How can you spend money on a cake when there are children starving? How can you have a party when so many are in poverty? How can you feel deserving of an award when the problems have yet to be solved?
Working in community is a journey. Stopping to celebrate small victories and appreciate the talent and work of others is like stopping for fuel on this journey. Affirmation is charging, electrifying. It keeps spirits up, reminds us of our connectedness, and assures us that the world is a beautiful place despite its troubles.
An effective celebration will:
Allow you to reflect on all that has been accomplished, what worked well and what can be done better.
Say thank you to others for their gifts of time, money, prayer, voice.
Affirm your personal community calling.
Enjoy the experience of community, of being a part of an effort bigger than yourself.
Prepare for the next leg of the journey – physically, emotionally and spiritually.
In my years of community work I have seen projects that don’t celebrate burn out from lack of focus and appreciation. People only want to be part of an effort where they feel like they have something to contribute and are making a difference. When that doesn’t happen they just give up, they just get too invested in problems and lose sight of the fact that connectedness is our only true goal.
Build in affirmative celebrations at regular points in your community work. They can be small parties or big parties, award ceremonies, special lunches, trophies, blue ribbons, certificates, and public recognition in the media. Be creative and think of a way to celebrate that will bring people together and make the community bond stronger.
Remind each other that connections matter, regularly and with great fanfare, and we will all graduate from this world together.