Serving Together Builds Bridges

There were 75 awesome individuals of all diversities – age, gender, race, ethnicity, ability, body type, economic status, faith and secular perspectives, sexual orientation, and more – who invested their morning to make a positive impact at Second Harvest Food Bank yesterday morning.  Diversity aspects are recognized because of their potential or historical use to marginalize and devalue people; inclusion of diverse individuals means valuing them for who they are and for their unique perspectives and contributions.

The direct impact of volunteer service at Second Harvest – more than 67,000 hours of volunteer serve at the food bank in 2014 – is empowering the food bank to provide more than 70,000 meals a week to local families in need.  More than 180,000 individuals in central Florida struggle with hunger, and Second Harvest works with more than 500 partner agencies to assist those people.  They also host many other initiatives – such as the high-five lunch pack for kids in local schools and the community kitchen where they offer professional chef courses to at-risk individuals in our community, providing them with a professional career path with a 100% employment rate after graduation.   Some of whom may have served with us at this event.

People who have experienced, or are experiencing, need are often the most generous individuals and are ranked high in numbers in our community’s volunteers and charitable donors.  If you were one of our 75 volunteers yesterday, you surely stood next to someone whose family has received services from Second Harvest or its partners. And though you may be someone who has not yet needed assistance, you can be sure that these strong services in our community will be there to help you should your circumstances change. We serve with each other to help each other.

One of the indirect impacts of diverse individuals standing shoulder-to-shoulder and working together to make this world a better place is creating an open, welcoming space where people can overcome their differences for the good of others – often without even realizing they are doing it.  When we have the opportunity to serve with people who are different from us, we grow in our understanding that good is in the heart of all.

The individuals who chose to invest their Saturday morning to volunteer at the food bank were from everywhere.  We had one volunteer who said that they have served with Hands On Hong Kong!  There was an awesome mix of all kinds of diversities and it was heartwarming to see everyone laughing together, helping one another, and getting to know one another.

The faith diversity at this event was unmentioned and unnoticed – but very present.  There were members from a local church as well as two organizations – BE. Orlando and Hands On Orlando, which are both open, respectful, and welcoming to persons of all faith and non-faith perspectives.  BE. Orlando is a Humanist-centered organization; its purpose is bringing secular individuals together in service and inviting the Humanist-friendly faith community to join us.  Serving together builds bridges and exposes us all to the good people who hold faith and non-faith perspectives different from our own.

Goodness and kindness are ubiquitous, as are gratitude and the desire to be a meaningful, contributing member of the greater whole.  These transcend faith perspectives. People want to make a difference and to know that the wake they leave behind them in life generates ripples of positive impact that radiate out and connect with others.  As we choose how we invest the precious moments of our life, we have the opportunity to consider creative, impactful ways to generate a greater wake of kindness and to recognize the potential for goodness in those around us.

When you have the opportunity to serve with diverse persons, take a moment to reflect on the diversity around you – both visible and unseen.  Remember that behind every face is a story line with many characters, challenges, diversities, triumphs, hopes, and fears.  Seek the good in all, and be an active advocate for inclusion – value others for who they are and for their unique perspectives and contributions.

Those stories are not visible – and some may surprise us. Making invisible diversities such as secularism more visible is one way of reducing discrimination by normalizing inclusivity.

openlysecular-about-copy (2)Join us on April 23rd in support of the national Openly Secular Day event.  The mission of Openly Secular is to reduce discrimination by encouraging secular individuals to be open about their worldview.  “Opening minds and changing hearts” is the Openly Secular tagline, and they are challenging all secular individuals to tell at least one person.  They are also challenging persons of faith to be open about their acceptance of secular people to show that our differences do not need to divide us.  The flagship event in the nation will be held at the University of Central Florida, hosted by the Secular Student Alliance chapter at UCF.

BE. Orlando will have a table in the vendor room with information about local Humanist volunteerism efforts and ways that we can serve together to build bridges across our differences in faith perspectives.  See you there!

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