Plant Flowers in Others’ Gardens

A daylily pops into the garden for but a single day. Collectively, they make a big impact, but individually, their time is fleeting.

Serving the bees briefly, they take their leave as the sun sets, as if to say “Hello. I’m here. My job was to be beautiful. Now, I bid you adieu..”

Brief as their stay is, it’s a valued contribution that adds to the whole.

Recently, someone who knows that I have worked and volunteered with different nonprofits asked me where she might also offer some time. With kids gone and an empty house, she felt her world getting smaller. She wanted to find an organization where she could contribute and become part of a “tribe” – forming a new, extended family – some place, people, and cause she could belong to.

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” ~ Mohammed Ali

She wanted to do something meaningful – not menial – and to be part of a team. But the work had to fit into her life without feeling obligated. She had her job, her gym, her house, and yard. So maybe once a month – but no commitment.

I listened and smiled. There are many volunteer jobs where you can pop in here and there, including at Homeward Bound. Your contribution will be truly valued as a part of the whole – just as the daylily is. But don’t be surprised if you find yourself still searching for that depth of connection – your tribe.

It takes time to be taught – and to learn – a key role in a volunteer organization. Somehow, we have become so wrapped up in our individual lives that we have forgotten the power of showing up. Don’t expect a ‘here-and-there’ effort to have the same personal impact as things that develop over time.

Work you are invested in – and watch unfold – creates deeper ties and bonds.

Becoming part of something larger than yourself requires presence – and commitment. No matter the cause.

A coming together. Not because someone is holding you accountable. But because you have a love and passion for the work and the difference it makes.

The presence need not be physical; there are many key roles volunteers can assume from a distance or from home. But you are engaged – for the celebrations, frustrations, joys – and sorrows. You are a part of the magic that makes the impossible, possible.

When you give of yourself, you find that sense of purpose, and you discover yourself surrounded by others who share that passion. Before you know it, you have found your tribe.

“In giving you are throwing a bridge across the chasm of your solitude.” ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Wisdom of the Sands

Not everyone has time for a significant commitment. That’s OK. Give what you can. But to find what my acquaintance is missing, expect to give a little more. Trust me. You will be rewarded ten-fold.

“Plant flowers in others’ gardens and your life becomes a bouquet!” ~ Author Unknown

common bonds

These are both Clematis vines.


As different as they look, they are but two of some 300 species in the same genus.

Like the Clematis, my sisters and I appear very unalike. We could not have begun on more different paths; but as we age mature, the roads have merged. Instilled in all four of us is a common passion for rescue.  Rescue of different sorts, albeit; but rescue, nonetheless.

Susan is a natural history biologist, dedicated to the rescue and restoration of native glades and woodlands. When she is not identifying plants or tagging bears (rest assured, is very much alive and safe!),


she is setting fire to one state park or another to return it to its natural state.


My sister, Beth, is the rescuer of humans. For years, she nursed babies and children as a pediatric ICU nurse. Today, she is a school nurse who will be spending her summer with Blue Skies Ministry, providing retreats to families faced with the enormous emotional, financial and spiritual challenges of childhood cancer.

I spend my days with a small army of people who disabilities who need no rescue – only opportunity. My weekends, as you know, have gone to the dogs.



Finally, there is my sister, Debra.  An accomplished business professional and writer; she left that world when life changes demanded a less stressful pursuit. She trained and worked as a vet tech, then a pet sitter, and because she is who she is – launched her own very successful pet sitting business. Despite the demands, her passion for the work brings balance to the hectic schedule and strenuous pace. She is deeply involved with an effort to capture, spay, treat, release and care for feral cats in her community, thereby humanly reducing the population over time. Best of all, she has recently returned to writing through her new blog: “The Blessing of Animal Companions.” I thought some of you would enjoy it.

I was particularly taken with this section of a Robert Frost’s poem she quoted as she wrote about the evolution of her life’s work:

My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only when love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes
Is the deed ever really done

For Heaven and the future’s sakes. ~ Two Tramps in Mud Time

I marvel at how the brain, jock, geek and cheerleader have found such common sense of purpose in our avocation and vocation from such divergent paths. I’ll leave it to all of you to figure out which is which, by the way.