Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Honoring Our Community

In recent months, I have been honored twice for my volunteer work.

It is an embarrassment of riches.

Back in June, I received the community volunteer of the year award from our local Rotary (to which I do not belong). From what I have since gathered, being named a Paul Harris Fellow in Rotary circles is the equivalent of winning a Nobel Prize.

Then yesterday, at our United Way campaign kickoff breakfast, I was recognized for earlier receiving the Nancy Frankenberg award for "exceptional volunteerism and dedication." The Frankenberg award is our United Way's equivalent of winning a Nobel Prize.

I guess I am now a two-time local Nobel winner.

My good friend Margo, who was at the United Way breakfast with me and Warren, emailed me her thoughts later:

You keep a fairly low profile, you know, so although I'm aware of all you do, the scope of your impact and influence startles me on days like this. It's like looking across the breakfast table and thinking "Whoa! I'm eating muffins with Mahatma Gandhi!"

I replied:

You were eating muffins with April Nelson. Trust me, I was there too.

Or, as I remind Warren from time to time, it's just me.

After I came home last week with the Frankenberg award, which is somewhat large, Warren joked that we are going to have to build a trophy case. That reminded me of the wistful explanation Christopher Milne gave in his haunting memoir, The Enchanted Places, as to why it never bothered him to donate his toys - the Pooh, the Piglet - to the New York Public Library: I wouldn't like a glass case that said: "Here is fame;" and I don't need a glass case to remind me: "Here was love."

So ix-nay on the trophy case, my dear Warren.

What occurred to me was that, had I had the opportunity to say a few words, what I would have said is "when I look out at this room, there is not a table here without at least one person with whom I have worked on a project to better our community."

And that's the truth. From school levies to United Way to the Symphony to the Legal Clinic - they were all there.

It is always the truth. It is always a community effort. It is always all of us joining together, whether it is the 31 volunteers who showed up last Saturday to move the Symphony office to its new location or the friend coming to the Legal Clinic last month "just" to help with intake.

It is wonderful to get recognition and these awards are no exception. I am deeply touched and honored. But ultimately, it's not about me. It's about us. It is about this community coming through time and time again to improve the quality of life for everyone.

And that's worth a Nobel Prize in my book any day.


Ellen said...

Congrats, April--both on your awards and on being so fortunate as to live in such a sustaining community.

Arlene said...

You are one of those 'spark' people... once you sign on, others follow. Your contributions to our community are deeply felt in just about every dimension. Knowing that you make.. and keep.. these commitments for the improvement of Delaware rather than to line a shelf or fill a trophy case makes your recognitions even more special... mere visible showpieces to acknowledge that huge heart of yours.

elonjohned said...

true, it's the community coming together but it's your leadership and initiative that get everyone else moving. that certainly deserves recognition. if you want, i can send you a buttercup colored tutu for your trophy case...