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Spirituality Essay:

Working Vactions    ( May 2010 )

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With summer approaching, most of us are exploring our desires and options for how to best enjoy this special time of year. And for many, that means what to do for a vacation. So many possibilities, and ultimately decisions. Each of us approaches this differently, of course, but common goals would include: new adventures and experiences, especially from travel, that stimulate and expand our world; getting our batteries recharged (rest, relaxation, and recuperation from the daily grind); relationship building and strengthening opportunities; personal growth (workshops, etc.), and, of course, fun.

One idea worth considering is a "working" vacation. These are vacations in which pleasure takes a back seat to some nobler purpose.working with an organization whose goal is world betterment in some form. The options and locations are endless. For anyone looking for something radically different, deeply satisfying and meaningful, and stimulating (perhaps even life-altering), this might be worth a serious look. It fits in naturally and beautifully with our UU Third Quality of a Spiritual Life: service.

I first encountered this idea in a magazine article a year ago. The long-story- short message was to first identify a cause you felt strongly about that you'd like to work for and where you'd like to work, and then google to find organizations where your interests (and skills) coincided with their project.

Like what? What turns you on?? ... the sky's the limit: work with the homeless in Atlanta; help with an orphanage in Guatemala (a great resource for international volunteering is How to Live Your Dream of Volunteering Overseas by Joseph Collins); fund-raise for a dance repertory in Vermont; help refugees in Lebanon; do just about anything in Haiti; work for a political candidate or ballot measure in Ohio; help out a health clinic in Uganda; plant trees in an Alaskan clearcut; help the Mendocino Music Festival in Mendocino. Yes, the list is endless. Costs vary (some are subsidized even), as do time commitments..but I'd suggest at least two weeks, if possible, to realize all the benefits of total immersion.

The benefits from this work can be immense. Last summer, as many of you know, I was a peace activist in Palestine.and was rewarded with one of the best experiences in my life. The great adventure, the stimulation of very different peoples and problems, and the accelerated personal and spiritual growth it brought me would have been satisfying enough; but even more valuable was the incredibly deep satisfaction I felt from doing something that was so palpably meaningful for people who desperately needed help/services I could offer. I've never felt more welcomed or appreciated in any other life undertaking.

Our UU calling to use our lives to be "in service to others" is an important principle that, if it is felt deeply in our unconscious as an integral part of `who we are,' will lead us into increasingly meaningful, life-giving activities and richer personal connections. Those who give, naturally and instinctively, inevitably find themselves receiving so much more back, in all the unforeseen, delightful, and myriad ways the universe always reciprocates. A working vacation offers concentrated time and energy in giving: it will change and open you at your deepest level ... guaranteed.

This is one in a series of essays on spirituality by Rick Childs, lay leader of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Mendocino Coast. You may want to:
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