Brother, can you spare an hour?

I only wish I had the time to help. The other morning I was in a coffee shop in Arizona City. This is a local hangout place for philosophers, world affairs experts and low-cost Starbuck’s wannabees. The group will range from right-wing to left-wing depending on the time of the morning. The Curve’s group come in at about 9:30 so the MEN try to be out there by then. No sense discussing politics, sports and world solutions with a bunch of women. This morning my time was bordering between mens time and womens time. Thus, there was a blending of both sexes. One of the world experts and philosophers noted a guy outside who was working his way down the medium strip picking what appeared to be “weeds.” “Whats that guy doing?” “Who is he.” “Does he think he can get all the weeds in town.” “Must be nice to have nothing to do.” I mean look at us in the coffee shop, we are solving the world’s political problems and selecting the best coachs and players for all the NFL, NBA and other professional sports leaques. Why doesn’t he join us and do something useful?

Well after much debate, one of the women in the shop went out to ask him what he was doing. She talked to him about five minutes and returned. All weighty and important world discussions ceased as we anxiously awaited this strange man’s mission and goals in life. I must admit, I was thinking he was doing some kind of good deed that only the retired or indigent have time to do. I was surprised to find that he was gainfully employed, but he donated one hour a week of his time to help make the community a nicer place to live. I had expected that he would be some “do gooder retiree” with too much time on his hands. My rationale for not doing something like this has always been “I don’t have the time.” I was embarrassed to think that someone, anyone of us, could simply go out and pick weeds one hour per week. Do I have one hour per week to pick weeds? I am spending an hour at least three times per week solving the world’s problems with my fellow philosophers. The answer is clearly yes. Funny, I never thought about it. I assumed you either worked and did paid activity or you were retired and did “free” stuff for the world and society. Given that I had no immediate plans to retire, the free stuff did not seem like to much of an option.

Now please don’t get me wrong. I do 12 to 16 hours of work per week pro bono for a business development group locally. I work with small start up companies to help them develop their business plan and marketing strategies. I do not get paid for this and I think it is worthwhile, but it is or seems very different from simply going down the street to pick weeks. One seems professional and important, the other seems mundane. Yet, many of us would rather have more beauty in our lives and perhaps less business.

What if you and I simply gave one hour per week of community service? What if more of us were visible in our community instead of living on our decks or behind our stone walls and increasingly gated communities? This strange man picking weeds has inspired me to go beyond my limits. I now see a big gray area beyond work and retirement. Only it really is not gray, it is quite blue and green.

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