To welcome and help

Matt with Darla and Nathan Hill, President, Kiwanis Club of Williamsburg, April 2014

Matt with Darla and Nathan Hill, President, Kiwanis Club of Williamsburg, April 2014

“One of the marvelous things about community is that it enables us to welcome and help people in a way we couldn’t as individuals. When we pool our strength and share the work and responsibility, we can welcome many people, even those in deep distress, and perhaps help them find self-confidence and inner healing.”― Jean Vanier 

I’ve written here before about our friend Darla, and the difference one person can make in the lives of others.  In that post, I quoted Mother Teresa urging people to act as individuals rather than looking to leaders for direction.  Today’s quote is from her friend and kindred spirit, Jean Vanier, who emphasizes what can be achieved when people work together in community.

For many years now, Matt has been a member of the Aktion Club chapter affiliated with the Kiwanis Club of Williamsburg, Virginia. I can’t say enough about this wonderful organization, which enables Matt and other adults with disabilities to work alongside Kiwanis Club members in community service projects.  The camaraderie and self-esteem that can only come from such teamwork has been invaluable for Matt and so many others.

As people become more and more involved with extended work hours, electronic entertainment and other distractions, I sometimes fear that our churches and community organizations will suffer from dwindling participation, volunteers and resources.  It would be sad if the many benefits provided by such groups are curtailed at a time when they are needed more than ever.

I am deeply grateful for the people of Kiwanis and other groups who have worked together to enrich Matt’s life with belonging and joy.  I’m thankful for the many volunteers who work to provide food and shelter for homeless people and animals, serve in hospitals and schools, and tutor children and adults learning to read.  I appreciate the countless unsung heroes who give to our communities in so many ways without recognition or monetary reward.  Why do they do it?  I think most would say that they gain as much or more than they give in such efforts.

Is there a local group that could use your help, or a service program to which you’ve been drawn?  When we reach out to others who need us, we deal a double blow to despair, lifting someone else’s spirits as well as our own.

One year ago today:

Just stand there shining


  1. Larry

    We are so happy to see Matt in this latest photo. Service to others is honorable and greatly appreciated. Matt has always enjoyed working in the community and that would not have been possible without the help of volunteers. Grandmother is proud of Matt and wants him to know she loves him. She is praying that he will get to go home very soon.

    • Thank you Larry. Matt is never happier than when he is “helping people” as he calls it. He’s a bit grumpy today but we hope he will be getting that chest tube out later on. I gave Matt the message. 🙂 He said “Isn’t that good to know?”

  2. raynard

    julia( for some reason gmail ,”was going through a”O.C.D” moment) i”m posting now. As we approach mother’s day, I nominate you “as Mother of the Year”.It’s a refreshing joy to hear about good and great things about being a mother and not”how mother’s came up short or”need counciling or parenting classes to acknowledge that ” we are not always right or have all the answers.( wait i’m having a Yoda moment “do or not do he must of flunked English 101 and can you imagine him as a 911 operator or giving out directions for AAA? I digress be blessed and have a good day..

    • Raynard, an entire mini-series could be devoted to all the things I messed up as a mother, but I appreciate your kind words nonetheless. I totally love Yoda and the line you quote (“Do, or do not. There is no try.”) is a favorite of mine. Imagining Yoda as a 911 operator is totally great, they should do an SNL skit about it. “Too hysterical you are. Calm down you must.” Or AAA. “If a tow truck you need, the address you must have.” Here’s one I had to save due to my aforementioned “tizzy” tendency.

  3. Susan

    It’s true. One of the surest ways to cheer up is to help sometime else!

    • No matter how many times I experience this for myself, I still need to be reminded of it! Thanks for being here.

  4. MaryAnn

    Your thoughts about volunteering at right on! When our church took over running the Boys & Girls Club because there was no money in the city budget, I became part of that team. We encourage, nurture, befriend, console, teach & listen. Like you stated, I receive much from the experience. In the summer of 2013, the onsite director discovered that the children entering kindergarten DID NOT know their ABC’s by sight, nor rote. I was (and am) appalled! Right away, I began a special, fun time just for those children. They soaked up the attention & soared! It developed into a classroom of my own at the Club. Terri Wallacker helped me tremendously with her time & resources. I tell everyone that “I have a highly talented school teacher with 26 years on the job at my back”. I feel like you do that giving of my time feeds me as it feeds those we help!
    Thank you for your ongoing input & insight. Great ideas!
    In the photo, Matt appears to have been working hard out in the sun.

    • Mary Ann, I am so happy to learn of your work with Boys and Girls Clubs. As you are seeing, such efforts are sorely needed and teachers everywhere will thank you! Matt’s face has been quite red lately and we don’t really know why. It may have something to do with sensitivity to the sun due to one or another of his medications. It will be interesting to see whether it clears up. He has been out in the sun a bit, but really not enough to get that kind of sunburn. The new heart med he is on as of last week means we will have to sharply curtail his sun time and use tons of sunscreen and hats when he is outside. One more thing to remember…

  5. I remember your post on Darla. I have the excuse of the lack of such opportunities here. But I have always wanted to be part of such a community where I can do something for those who are in need.

    • Bindu, eventually there may be some opportunities and then you will be ready! 🙂 I think nothing is better at bringing people together than working side by side on some project to help others. It’s fun, and having a common goal really helps us feel connected to others. As a teacher you are helping every day through the work you do. Probably no other job comes closer to community service as teaching.

  6. Great photo! Hope Matt’s feeling better today.

    • Thank you Merry! Matt has been grumpy today but he got a bit better after we walked around. They just removed his chest tube and the nurse said he had never seen any patient do as well (be as brave) with a chest tube removal. They are about to run a lot of diagnostics now. Let’s hope he might be able to go home tomorrow!

  7. Larry

    HOORAY! Glad to see that the tube is out and how brave he was. Tell him we are all so proud of him and hopeful that he will go home real soon. Grandmother is really happy and all smiles! He is a veteran to all this and amazes me how much he has gone through yet triumphs with a smile and kind word to everyone he comes in contact. Prayers have been answered, to God be the glory.

    • Thank you, Larry. It’s a lot to go through, that’s for sure. I will tell Matt you are proud of him.

  8. LB

    I was just reading your previous comment and am glad to hear that the chest tube is out. What a relief and another step in the right direction. Fingers crossed that he will go home tomorrow.
    In terms of volunteering in civic / church / community organizations: it seems as if it is always the same 10% that do all the volunteering. I wish more people would realize the reward of giving 🙂

    • Yes LB, the joy of volunteering is one of those things that is hard to understand until we experience it. I am very grateful for that devoted 10%!

  9. Sheila

    Julia, my prayer tonight for Matt will be that tomorrow he’s going home and recovering there even quicker, in his more comfortable surroundings. Everything you’ve shared regarding these days in the hospital certainly renew our faith in the level of medical expertise and caring that abounds! Matt is a fine example of courage and I will continue sharing his story every chance I get! 🙂 Bill has returned from DC and with a happiness that I had missed seeing in him lately. Prayers are answered! Take care my sothern sister. Until tomorrow….

    • Thank you Sheila! I’m so happy Bill is home and the trip was a blessing. We will keep you posted. I must say candidly, the quality of care out in the regular floor has not been anything near as impressive as it was in the CICU — it feels like it’s been mostly Jeff and me doing a lot of it — so we will be relieved to be home and I know Matt will too. Thanks for praying with us for that to happen tomorrow! Jeff has chemo tomorrow so we won’t get home until late in the afternoon at the earliest, since he will have to pick us up after his treatment. But late tomorrow beats anytime the next day! 🙂

      • Sheila

        ” The people in the car have great big smiles, great big smiles, great big smiles….”. I’m sure you can sing that all the way home!

        • 😀 😀 😀

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