Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. – Howard Thurman
Betty is a long-time member of our community who was kind to me from the beginning. During my first week of work, I took a break in our kitchen to try and build some relationships, figuring that the best place to do that was over food. For a second, I felt like a kid in the lunchroom, wondering where to sit and who to talk to. Betty pretty much immediately came and sat next to me, chatting and making me feel right at home.
I know a few details about Betty’s life, like how many children she has. Where some of her other family members go to church. What she likes to eat, especially when she’s trying to stay healthy. (She once tried to convince me that applesauce was an acceptable substitute for chocolate. She’s still trying.) The faith she has in God.
It’s also pretty clear that Betty has a generous spirit. She likes to bring treats, sometimes in the form of cupcakes, for the community. If she comes across coupons she thinks you can use, she will save them for you in a plastic sandwich bag, because “we could all use a little help sometime.” Most recently, she brought a bag full of gift bags she’d found so that we could use them for birthdays or other community celebrations. She’s brought me baby clothes from the Oak City Outreach Center.
When I come across the Howard Thurman quote about the world needing people who have come alive, my mind automatically jumps to well known heroes and heroines like Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela, or Harriet Tubman. Yes, they were people who had come alive, people of action who were able to offer their gifts and accomplish great things for the benefit of humanity. However, none of them could’ve done what they did outside the context of community, and I think it might be safe to say that none of them could’ve anticipated how their ordinary, everyday actions would lead to the extraordinary.
Betty may not go down in the annals of history as a great change agent in society. She’s not someone the dominant culture would consider important. In fact, there might be times when she’s purposefully made invisible, or her right simply to occupy space is criminalized because her existence makes others uncomfortable.
And I’ll admit, sometimes I am uncomfortable with Betty. She will talk my ear off if I let her, and the thread of the conversation can be pretty difficult to follow. She might decide that she’s angry with me, for reasons I might never know or understand. She can say things of a religious nature that are offensive to other members in the community.
Despite this, and because of it, I’d like to contend that the world needs Betty. Our community needs Betty. I need Betty. I see her come alive when she is sharing: whether it’s coupons or a story during our worshipping community’s time together, when she is giving of herself, I see her bloom.
Betty brings the beauty of her generosity in small ways, every time we see her, and to me, this is truly heroic.
Who are some everyday heroes in your community that you are grateful for?