This week I’ve been in a daily battle with physical pain. The good news: I’ve figured out the source and it can be remedied. In the meantime, my energy level is depleted and I want to sit and stare at the wall. Nothing more. Imagine my misery when I realized a month ago I had volunteered to help a local program last night. Sit. In. Chair. Or keep commitment.

I showed up for the most unexpected experience. Over 150 people in my community came out to fill 1,600 bags with food for children who otherwise wouldn’t have enough to eat this summer. The process resembled a well organized machine. People — elderly, teenagers, parents with children, business owners, people in wheelchairs, city councilmen — grabbed two bags and walked down a long line of tables filled with food. Each bag was passed off to a group of people tying the bags shut. Then the bags where pushed to another team who ran them to large containers. This machine churned out bags for over an hour. All of this took place inside a warehouse in Texas at the end of June. No doubt with the heat index in the upper 90s, the warehouse temp was edging up there too. The energy level was high (almost as high as the sweat equity, literally), the joy even higher and the fun over-the-top.

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The entire experience was a game changer for me — to both watch others give generously and joyfully and to participate alongside them. It took the focus off of my pain. Parents were teaching their children what it looks like to be part of the solution. City leaders were putting aside there already over-stretched schedules to invest in what matters. When we are in pain, either physical or emotional, we can sit in our chair and stare at the wall which keeps our focus on our pain. Or we can get out and be useful — providing something for someone else.

It’s a game changer.

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