Local entities in the newspaper, non-profit and philanthropy fields make a big deal out of giving and getting awards. This self-rewarding activity affirms their missions, and creates an esprit de corps among these communities. As the years proceed and more awards are given out, I see that none of my associates (barring the Overlook Trail Stewards cohort), get any awards.
On one level this makes sense, because the award context is all based around an established network of power players, philanthropy, non-profits and status quo actors, where it takes money at some level, to participate. Money somehow gets to be a central thing. Now don’t get me wrong, there is a definite place for local moneyed institutions and organizations. This is one level of community action and service you expect to be there. These organizations exist because of people’s good will and generosity; they serve a good purpose. I’m not writing this piece to impugn anyone’s motives.
Community actors can only stand from the places where they sit. A diverse community has many standpoints. Accidents of Fate made us white, brown, rich, poor, smart or dumb; it’s our job to make sense of it all.
All people have to put their pants on in the morning and reckon with their humanity, and the quality of a rich heart or a poor heart is ultimately not a matter of money. The flavor of service people partake in is one of their choice. When people serve, their intent is good. I’m not writing this to tear some down and to build others up. I’m writing to recognize substantial community actors who serve outside the orbit of money.
I’m writing to give awards to a segment of our local civil society that in many ways gets ignored by the institutions that need to raise money to tackle problems that demand money to deal with. My awards emerge from values centered in Quakerism, the counter culture, civil rights movement, environmentalism, the women’s movement, and the labor movement.
Just as establishment awards arise out of certain contexts, my awards emerge out of my values, interests and local activities, which are on a 100% volunteer basis, and center on social and environmental justice. Civil society has more service going on than non-profits that need money to go around. There are many, many volunteers here working for free or for pitifully little money involved, only principles and dedication. These volunteers deserve recognition. They deserve to be “award winning.”
I would like to give my awards to the following folks, who put in a tremendous amount of time to better the world and our community. They show up, they act, they get back on the horse and ride, they put in untold time and hours, they are dedicated, they put wind in the sails of what is true and right, they are making a difference. My hat is off to you.
To meet my award criteria, no money can be involved, and it is very important to be primarily “for” things rather than “against” things. Why the “for” qualification? Because at the end of the day, no one will be convinced to voluntarily change through hard-ball tactics, and no lasting change latches on if not voluntary. The following people are ones I have admired very much. Drumroll please…. Here are my awards for excellent and dedicated community service. In alphabetical order. Tom Conlon, John Donnelly, Beth Hadley, Frank Windes, Celeste Winders.