Artisans of the Common Good

My columns for the last two weeks have focused on New Year's resolutions. I hadn't felt a need to write a third one on this topic until I read about a homily that Pope Francis gave on New Year's Eve. A compelling column by David Brooks of the The New York Times brought Pope Francis' homily to my attention and when you have a few minutes I highly recommend you click on this link to read it.

My favorite line from the homily was Francis' call to all of us to be, "artisans of the common good." Imagine what it would mean if in addition to any self-improvement resolutions we set, we each also resolved to be more intentional about our being artisans of the common good, people who give back to our local communities, so community members who live there could benefit in some way.

There is much to be anxious about in the world today. It is sometimes hard to know  what impact, if any, we can have on the larger issues of our day. Pope Francis reminds us that much of the day to day well-being of what does happen in our families, neighborhoods, and communities, is something we can impact. We can, in fact, take more seriously our role as co-creators of the common good in each of these places.

I recently observed a parent support group at a school with more than its share of challenges. I heard first hand from the parents, teachers, and administrators in attendance that their school is exceptional because of the level of involvement by parents and other adult volunteers who are making up for a shortage of staffing due to budget concerns. These parents and other volunteers are clearing acting as artisans of the common good.

I know a high school teacher who regularly recruits teens to commit a full day to collecting litter and clearing trails along in a local river park. I am also inspired by a member of my extended family who lives in the independent living section of a retirement community, and who spends time almost every day making visits to people with dementia and other difficulties in the skilled care section of her community. I know countless people who are active in their faith communities, people who regularly serve those in their surrounding community, as well as taking care of one another in times of need.

I know that I am not alone in worrying about some of the macro-concerns in our world. While I can, and must, do my part to address these larger issues, I also am resolving now to renew my commitment to addressing the micro-concerns I encounter daily, and to becoming more intentional about being an artisan of the common good in my corner of the world.