Monday, October 29, 2007

One Tiny Stamp

This weekend found me once again working with our town symphony orchestra’s Family Concert. It is a full-scale professional production that delights, if but once a year, the little tyke set in this picture-perfect New England town of ours. Year after year, we fly in the best talent who, along with our professional symphony, present top-rated performances to ensure that the rich heritage of classical music infiltrates the spirits of our favorite little citizens.

It is a precious gem of a thing, bringing a classical music concert to our toddlers and young people. One gift of which I am most proud to be a small part of. Art and music education is my personal soapbox, so I want to make sure that I do everything in my lifetime to ensure that the power of the arts continue for the generations to follow. That by planting a shade tree under which I will never sit, others will have the opportunities to feast upon the same joy that I was gifted as a child. That a love of fine music—and great art—will become a part of them, just as it has me all of these many years later.

But service—volunteerism—comes with a price. In my own case, I had spent the entire previous week out-of-state on a business trip. I returned home Friday night exhausted, without my bearings, to an (almost) finished kitchen renovation that still left a couple dozen unpacked boxes of kitchen stuff on my living room floor. Suitcases to unpack, books to organize, and four loads of laundry to sift though and deal with. On top of that, three of my husband’s longtime friends (and some of my favorite people in the world) were flying in for a weekend reunion. Both of our sons had away football games; our daughter had tennis practice. And my role in the Family Concert required an all-day commitment to everyone who was making this wonderful gift possible. Life felt insanely busy this weekend.

I went into overdrive. I had no choice. Needed walking space for houseguests. Clean towels and underwear. Food. Transportation for our own kids.

Service comes with a price. Sacrifices to families and to jobs. To spouses and to personal exercise routines. We need to acknowledge the sacrifices, knowing full well that when we volunteer to work in areas in which we feel passion, we feel that the sacrifices are worth it. We place a priority on those areas in which we feel led to serve. We know that we are helping others, and that without our efforts, the job may not get done at all, let alone get done well. And these things are, indeed, necessary for communities to function at their best.

But we need to be sure, as we simultaneously raise this next generation of sons and daughters for excellence, that our passion for service is appropriately placed. That as we’re all doing stuff outside of hearth and home that we’re ignited from within. Do a soul check. You know what I mean. Your gut matches your head. For as you enter into the whirlwind of everything that’s required for service, you need to feel that this is exactly where you’re supposed to be in this place and time of your life.

I felt that way this weekend, even though I am exhausted by it tonight. It wasn’t just enjoying the glorious music of Vivaldi, or seeing the dozens of little ones up on stage afterwards at our annual “petting zoo” meeting the musicians and touching their instruments. It was that inner exhilaration that made me believe that I left a tiny stamp in the footprint of my life that I stand for something larger than myself. That art and music will live on in at least a few children long after I die, because I invested in them when I could.

I hope you feel inspired to do something large. But that if you believe this isn’t the time in your life, that you will feel conviction to instead spend that time with your spouse and kids. That your tiny stamp will be done right inside the four walls of your home. And that, one day, you’ll have more time to go outside those walls. If even just a little bit.