I have recently been thinking about the image of a community, or organization, in terms of a body. One teaching on this matter that I have read compares a group of people living and working together as a body, where they are joined and work together to their mutual benefit, where each member does their share. The imagery of the teaching on this matter also talked about each of us has unique gifts that are to be used as we work together for our mutual health.
I have been thinking, especially this week, about how true this kind of imagery is of our Burlington community as a whole as well as our municipal government in particular. Each of us has unique gifts, that are of no true value until and unless we put them to the common good of all. Not only do we have unique gifts, but we each have a unique role to play based off of those gifts. For us to function effectively as a community (as well as for the City to function effectively as an organization), we need to have a willingness to use our unique gifts, talents, and roles for the benefit of all. That means we cannot function on our own, or think of one role as more important than another. It means that each individual’s decision about whether to use their abilities to the full extent possible or not will have a direct impact on the overall organization.
I have been very impressed by how the employees of the City of Burlington have united to work together over the years that I have been here. These have been years with many challenges, successes, and learning experiences. These have been years where, by and large, everyone has chosen to work together for our mutual success. I am proud of the effort and sacrifice that I have seen people in all departments, across the organization, put forth for the good of our community.
City Day in the Park (it was hot enough for me to think it was the Fourth of July, for all you Chicago music fans) was a prime example of this. We had people from across our organization work together to staff an event that was a fun afternoon for all involved. It took a tremendous amount of work, a lot of which went unseen. There would not have been anything successful about the day of the event without those hours of work of preparation, of ensuring that all the minor details were taken care of to allow the day to go forward with very few problems. The result of this effort (including not just City employees, but several organizations and individuals who willingly volunteered their support for our community) was that there were close to a thousand people able to participate in the day’s activities. They were able to tour the smoke house, a squad car, see all types of city equipment, get temporary tattoos, make bookmarks, tour the history of the park, jump in bounce houses, and have free refreshments, among other things. A heard a comment from one local service provider about this day that particularly hit home for me. They mentioned that several of their clients have very few opportunities to have their children participate in activities such as this because they lack the funds to do it; they don’t have the funds to pay for the bounce house, or the food, or whatever other activity they took part in that day. That ability for everyone to enjoy and participate is what City Day in the Park is about.
There was no one person who was more important to the success of City Day than another. We were reliant on everyone working together. City employees were reliant on other groups as well for the event to be successful. That seems to be the way of anything that happens in our community. When we work together as a body, we have the chance to succeed and be healthy. When someone, for whatever reason, chooses not to use their gifts willingly for the benefit of all, we fall apart. I have been blessed, during my time here in Burlington, to be surrounded by a group of people that recognizes how important it is to work together for our mutual benefit.