Community Service: Start Small, but Start

Usually, when I bring up the topic of community service with a member of the Jedi community, I am treated to a list of reasons why that person cannot engage in service activities. Granted, most of us have some physical limitations and limited amounts of time and money. But I am surprised and a bit dismayed to realize that people immediately think of large efforts as the only way to do service. Or that it is the only type of service that “counts” among the Jedi organizations.

Early in the history of the Jedi Temple, we had a discussion thread devoted to documenting service activities. We encouraged any and every volunteer activity to be recorded as inspiration to others and to celebrate that we were as much devoted to offline community improvement as to online self-development.

In many ways, it was wildly successful. It was a very active thread, where people logged actions as small as returning a shopping cart to its corral and as large as volunteering to building a house for Habitat for Humanity. Most of the actions were in the vein of a “random act of kindness” … but I think it did inspire people to be aware of the many, daily opportunities that present themselves to us constantly. It encouraged students and visitors to be mindful and see what was around them all day, every day. The chance to brighten someone’s day with a small action.

For those of us who are returning to the community and our training, I would like to recommend that you pick up the practice again of doing something, anything, no matter how small, whenever you see the opportunity.

I do not think that there is anything that is too small to count. And I do not think that any of us cannot contribute in some way. My late grandmother, bedridden and on dialysis, crocheted toys for children until her dying day. You, reading this, have something that you can do for another. Find it and do it. Today.

You give up your seat every day in the train.

Well… But that’s not heroic.

It is to the person who sits in it.

Turteltaub, J. (1995). While You Were Sleeping. Buena Vista Pictures.

A Jedi’s Life

Last summer, after Michael Bark located me on social media and invited me back into the online Jedi community, I found myself musing on the question of Jedi Knight as a vocation.

It takes time to determine if one has a vocation.  In monastic orders – or ministry – there is a testing period of at least a year, if not more.  Sometimes, before you’re even allowed to enter the novice stage, there is a period of frustrated waiting before you are even allowed through the gate.  

Why?  Because this level of commitment — usually to a community and to service — is difficult.  The trial period is used to determine if this calling is something so much a part of who you are that you can’t be anything else and yet be truly yourself.  In a sense, it can be the lesser struggle at times; at other times, it is the greatest joy.  You only have to read an autobiography of a nun or monk in order to get a sense of this.  Or realize that you told yourself you were going to train as friends go out for an evening without you.  

Yes, the training can be wonderful too, once you get there and get started working with your other group of friends.  Or it can be one of those nights where you are all left feet and frustrated at the end … wondering why you gave up a nice night in the name of maintaining discipline.  

There are few jobs anymore that are considered vocations.  Medicine is one.  Teaching is another.  Like Jedi knights, both can come with a title.  But, from experience, I can tell you that the thrill of being called “Professor” wore off early in my first semester of teaching.  After that point, you really do fall back on something else to keep you going and living up to your principles as best you can.  The vocation – the calling – carries you …. not the title.   

Ultimately, I keep on being a Jedi Knight because I cannot do otherwise. As a student of mine student put it some years ago:

… is there any other way? To the true Jedi, his own way is so obvious, so natural, that he cannot comprehend any other possibility … and for yourself, you live the Jedi Way, the Only Way.

Mark Lipovrovsky, Blue Group, Jedi Temple

So, this month … what there is left of it …. I am considering an aspect of living as a Jedi: service.

As I wander around the various sites and schools, I hope that there is more service activity than meets the casual eye. For, while training and self-improvement is an important part of being a Jedi, using our knowledge and skills for others is – in my opinion – an important aspect of being a Knight.

I think one of the problems is that most people see “Jedi” as a title. Being a Jedi means putting other people’s problems before your own. It means sacrificing getting things you “want” in order to give someone else something they “need”. It’s knowing that you are not perfect and knowing that you will make mistakes, but taking responsibility for your actions and being accountable for everything you do. It means helping everyone, even those you don’t like, when they are in need (a doctor would save the life of his worst enemy because he has sworn to do so).


Environment for Life

It was inevitable, given the past few years, that I would read Morken’s lecture on the narrow band of conditions that support higher-order life on Earth on a day when we have so many natural disasters in the news.

The scope of the problem is mind-boggling. The challenge of reversing environmental damage is substantial. Much does need to be done at decision-making levels that are far above our scope of influence (although, if you live in a democracy, please make sure you vote!!). Yet, ultimately, much of the impact – and the lifestyle changes necessary – will be at the individual level.

Today, consider what you could do to reduce the number of natural resources you use or the waste that you contribute. Do one thing.

The Narrow Threshold by Morken

From the NOAA disaster events website: showing increasing costs of disasters in the USA

For those affected by recent disasters …..

There is so much suffering in our world these days. Some is human-created. Some is the result of “natural disasters” (quite probably increasing in severity due to human actions). All in all, it often seems too much.

I’m still working on an article about how we can respond to these events as (Jedi) Knights, but in the mean time, I offer some ideas on how to respond in compassion.

One item I am adding to my day is to say the Litany for Those Lost to Climate Change from the UUA. Say it slowly, with intention and let the words sink into your soul.

Another idea would be to say the traditional Metta prayer with the areas recently affected as a focus for your prayer. If you are not familiar with this prayer, a 5-minute guided introduction can be found at Wildmind.

Finally, you may want to join the Jedi Community Action Network in a healing meditation (virtual) session.

Living as a (Jedi) Knight

I’m still thinking about paths and vocations, and so I present a few articles on how to live as a (Jedi) Knight.

While I agree that self-improvement is important, especially maintaining one’s health, I think we eventually – as individuals and as a community – need to reach out and address the needs of the world around us. What you choose to do – where and how you serve – is entirely up to you. But I hope you will find some way to serve others. These articles are offered as a way to start thinking about what you can do.

A Jedi’s Role by Steffan Karrde

A Jedi’s Role in the Community by V’tor and Ogion