Sustainability of community service
From: Rob Sandelin (
Date: Thu, 24 Jul 2008 09:20:54 -0700 (PDT)
Patty Mara Gourley brought up an excellent thread about how sustainable
community service is given the rest of our lives.  The time required to give
service to your community is in many cases larger than many people are
comfortable with.  Burn out can happen if you let it. 

The other day I was noticing in my community that an awful lot of things
have gotten done without me.  The commonhouse got painted while I was on
vacation.  The patio got scrubbed, sealed and sanded while I was doing
family events offsite.  A whole herd of kids got shepherded off to a water
park. And I did not do any of this. Yet it still happened somehow.

While attending a dinner party, which I did not plan or clean up much from,
I talked to some of the people who had been involved in the things that have
been happening.  Far from being burnt out or discouraged, they were
delighted and happy to have been able to get those things done. I have come
to believe that in my community, once you live here awhile, you choose where
to apply your energy and time, and most people seem to choose to do things
which gives them enjoyment.  Our childcare is provided by a loving mom who
absolutely loves kids, all of them.  Our gardeners love to garden, sometimes
spending extraordinary time fussing in the community garden.  I love the
woods and it is my joy to keep the trails clear. Others apparently love to
paint, and take care of things.  

>From time to time, tasks arise for which their seems to be little
enthusasiam. So we tend to hire these out or ask for contributions of money
instead of labor.  We  are about to build a greenhouse and there are several
work parties scheduled.  Some people have already donated money, others have
committed time.  There is both enough time and money to do the project and
so nobody is held accountable if they choose not to participate.  I think
this philosophy has served Sharingwood well, generally people show up who
want to and those who do not do other things at other times and it all works
out.  Sometimes if things that need doing do not get done we bring it up at
our meeting and figure it out, but this is rare anymore. Stuff gets done,
and people seem to be feeling good about it. 

So on a personal level, I never waste my time worrying about who is NOT
there, but rather enjoying who is, knowing that in many cases, I am not
there and people are not worried about my absence.

Rob Sandelin
17 years at 
Sharingwood Cohousing
Snohomish County, WA

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