Monday, April 20, 2015

In Service

Another WWF(a)C—Bloomington coming-of-age event marking ten-plus years of this remarkable community-in/of-the-making took place at the end of last month—our first Volunteer In-Service session.  Several of us confessed later that we had not wakened on that Saturday morning eager to spend the precious weekend day learning to volunteer for an organization many had already been working to build for years.

However, unlike any other in-service training anyone had ever attended, and LIKE pretty much every other event offered by this astonishing community of writing women, the day was surprising, thought-provoking, joyful, transformational.

Grounding rituals of candle-passing and check-in reliably create a trustworthy container. We opened with a beloved and (as always) perfectly chosen poem:

To be of use  by Marge Piercy

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

Discussion and writing centered on work that is real, what constitutes that work, what spirit and aspirations, mission and values, reach and opportunity further it. A heady brew of words, laughter, creativity, community, and common purpose filled the container to brimming. A new outreach and potential partnership with StoneBelt staff and clients came into focus.  New teams of cleaners, grantwriters, table staffers, holders of yet-to-be-identified spaces, plotters and planners emerged. An optional afternoon session facilitated by the women who have held writing space in the Monroe County Jail now for coming-on-nine-years was equally rich and revelatory, and new volunteers to share that work are in the pipeline.  The transformational possibilities of community and common purpose firmly grounded in the presumption of goodwill were again revealed.

POSTSCRIPT A number of women gathered last night at a Stand up for Autism fundraiser at The Comedy Attic to celebrate the Semicentennial Anniversary of the birth of a beloved one of us. It was a joy to hear deep popcorn laughter flowing among us, in yet another outing, yet another setting, for women to laugh and celebrate one another. A hilarious aspect of the evening was that the headline comic got the idea that our party was a work group (which we are, but not in the way that he assumed), and that we were a government work group.  Moreover, as he unpacked his comic explorations of gender and sexual differences, he began (whether for the purposes of working the room or for real) to riff on another assumption, that we were “mad at him.”  Best joke of the night, imho.

Mary for the Poplar Grove Muse

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