Even for the friendliest, most helpful and caring people, it can be hard to have to move to a new state and a new town every three years. As part of a military family, that’s a challenge that Sophia Palafox has faced for a long time. About a year ago she moved with her husband and daughter from California to Lake Stevens, Washington. The first two months in her new town were not very comfortable. It wasn’t just the newness of her situation that was uncomfortable; people just weren’t very friendly. But when Facebook suggested the Being Neighborly: Lake Stevens (BeNe: LS) group she was encouraged by its description and she joined. What a difference that has made for her whole family.
At first. she just watched what happened there without saying much. But quickly she knew BeNe was a good fit for her and that it was just what she needed. That was almost ten months ago. She says that not only has she made several real friends, BeNe has given her an opportunity to use her gifts. In fact, even after many years of service in the military, her BeNe participation has caused her to discover that she has some gifts that she didn’t realize that she had. After jumping in to help with projects like the Creativity Café, the Repair Café, the Produce Festival and others, Sophia decided to coordinate a new project for the group herself. She sponsors the Intergenerational Gathering. Her experience doing that extends beyond setting up an activity for people. She now has a real connection with some of the elders from that residence. She had never organized anything like that before and the experience has been especially meaningful since being away from her own family. And, her daughter participates in many of the different events and activities which helps her to feel happy about living in Lake Stevens too.
And, she loves how the daily interactions on the BeNe feed give people a chance to become familiar with each other. On more than one occasion once she finally met people in person, she felt that they had been friends for a long time and weren’t strangers at all!
Her husband is amazed when she brings free things home like homegrown goodies from the Produce Festival. And he is still surprised when she tells him about how people share their skills and contribute resources to make amazing things happen like the Garden Share project. He doesn’t quite know what to think of all of it, but she does! She thinks it’s great!
Not only do people work together to make things happen, she notices that people who just silently observe are influenced in a positive way too. People feel encouraged by the generosity and kindness they witness. Even when someone contributes to a project in a small way, it makes them feel good about being part of something of value for the community. It’s good and useful for so many people and in so many different ways.
Sophia has witnessed the value of the BeNe philosophies and projects even on people who aren’t part of the Facebook group. A woman was selling some child-sized garden tools. Upon learning that Sophia was interested in these for use at our Garden Share site, the woman no longer wanted to sell her the tools. Instead she gave them to her. Sophia describes this experience as a circle. When you give information to people about the good things that we are doing and you are nice to them and you offer them an opportunity to contribute, they may not even know exactly why but they feel good about the encounter. It goes around and around.
She recently joined the BeNe Bags project team. They are sewing reusable cloth bags for the Lake Stevens food bank. What she loves about this is that everyone on the team has a task that is specific to their skills and their situation. Sophia is just learning to use her sewing machine and is making the bag handles. More experienced seamstresses are making the whole bag and some folks are cutting the fabric. She feels that the group is accomplishing more than any one person could. And that is so rewarding for everyone. Not only does the team feel good about how they are working together, they love that the materials they are using all come for free from different people in the group. We often speak of shared skills and pooled resources and this is another example of that in action.
Once while getting a crocheting lesson at Starbucks from the coordinator of the project making sleeping mats for the homeless out of strips cut from plastic bags, she noticed that a man at a nearby table was looking at them like they were a little nuts. But, after he overheard what they were actually doing, she got the distinct impression that he approved. So, even someone who simply overheard about a BeNe project felt good about his community. Ahh…
The bottom line is that Sophia is very happy that she will be living in Lake Stevens and will be able to be part of the Being Neighborly “it takes a village” building for two more years. And we are grateful to have her!
Lake Stevens, WA