Last week, my daughter was married in the backyard of our house in a small town in rural Vermont.
The weather was spectacular, the location great, the ceremony moving, the people delightful… everything went almost like clockwork. We even had a full double rainbow after the rehearsal dinner. It was more than we could have hoped for.
What I want to talk about here, though, is the incredible community that made the wedding happen, and the power of community.
We had about 120 guests at the wedding. Dozens of them – family and friends – became part of the crew, setting up tables, cleaning out the barn, stringing lights, posting signs, and on and on.
But what was really striking was that our neighbors – whom we had reluctantly left off of the very tight guest list – stepped in to help, too.
Neighbors and even businesspeople lent us chairs and tables and coolers and trucks and potted plants. They picked up visitors at the airport – an hour away. They put up the photographers for the night. Another picked up traffic cones to slow the traffic on our rural road.
A neighboring hay farmer even postponed spraying manure on his fields, saying, “Oh yeah, your daughter’s getting married. I already know. Don’t worry. We won’t perfume the wedding.”
And when we found out that beetles had swept in and eaten the florist’s entire crop, neighbors invited us to cut flowers from their gardens and wildflowers from their fields.
I could go on. I am moved almost beyond words.
We expected our family to help out, and they did. What we didn’t expect was the power of community – of people helping simply because they wanted to.
It’s the idea of reciprocity that is central to social capital – the value of the network of people and relationships that enable us to live together – but you help not because you expect anything in return. You know people will help you if you need it, but that’s really not the point.
Besides being an all-around great day, the wedding turned out to be a reminder to me why I love the work I do. People volunteering, giving, working together, because … well, because it’s just what a community is about.