Building Community with Simple Actions

Mark - Old Lyme, Connecticut
Entered on December 30, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: community, legacy
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

Building Community with Simple Actions

Our community recently lost two iconic figures; one an award winning internationally recognized poet, the second a noted scholar and acclaimed calligrapher and traditional Chinese painter. They were colleagues and friends. I sat with the later at the former’s funeral.

More importantly, both were teachers and mentors who gave generously of their time. They each devoted time and energy to the success of others. Long after retirement as college professors they were active in academic circles and maintained close contact with countless students. They each had more genuine friends than most of us have acquaintances. Saying “No” was not in their nature. In their own ways they loved and were devoted to those closest to them. Failing health stopped neither of them from giving their time and pursuing their passions. Their commitment to community was inspirational and we were all elevated by having known them.

Neither was a philanthropist in the normal sense of the word, few people have the means and the notion to build hospitals and schools or clothe and feed the needy. Their impact was smaller in scope but meaningful in scale to those they influenced. Reflecting on their lives reminds me of something I have always known, but not always practiced. Each of us can positively influence the lives of those around us.

Mourning their passing is natural, as is looking to their work for a lasting legacy. But another response is to learn from, and be tempted down, the path they chose. Give your time, be a mentor, share your experience with others. Improve bonds with friends, offer love and respect and pass on goodwill. Grand gestures are not necessary. Simple actions can have a greater impact then you might imagine. Small gestures will enrich the community and leave you fulfilled.

I will always think of my two friends when an opportunity to touch others arises. I will not take the easy way out. “Leave your mark, start today” is my new motto