Thank you, Master Recyclers, for all your amazing work in 2016. From Canby to Forest Grove, East Portland to Beaverton, Master Recyclers volunteered in all sorts of places. Engineering and law offices, preschools and universities, Shabbat, Mass and O-Bon, farmers markets and grocery stores. You spoke in multiple languages, and with the very young and very old members of our community.
I am reading the Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, and it is making me appreciate your volunteerism more than ever. In the book, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and His Holiness the Dalai Lama explore together how they hold joy in their lives even in the face of racism, violence and exile.
I checked it out of the library as I was particularly interested in knowing how these two world leaders keep hope, because frankly 2016 was a tough year. It brought growing adversity with global policies and leaders emerging who utilize rhetoric that festers hate and makes people of color, refugees and immigrants unsafe in communities around the world. People who I care deeply about here in Portland are afraid. Environmental national policies are going in the wrong direction, forgetting to protect this beautiful planet from climate change, resource depletion and short-sighted land use.
We cannot afford the privilege of looking away. I needed a new source of strength so that I can continue to be a useful ally to the community and the environment.
For Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama, the source of their commitment is the practice of connection and compassion. The Dalai Lama says in the Book of Joy, “If I relate to others from the perspective of myself, I will then create walls that keep me apart from others. In contrast, if I see myself primarily as a fellow human, I can feel deep connection.” Desmond Tutu concurs when he says, “My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.” In the Book of Joy, they describe how they practice this sense of connection every day and it gives them strength and happiness.
Your volunteerism and the community you build as Master Recyclers are two shining examples of the practice of connection and compassion. When you share your stories of friendships, gatherings and shared projects, it is an example of the community you are building. When you report your hours, I see you choose to take the resources you learned about in class and translate them into your own communities, making the connections stronger.
Your choice to become a volunteer gives me hope. And I hope that it also brings you great joy in 2017. I can’t wait to hear how you practice making your connections.
Thank you! Lauren Norris