How To Be A Joiner

Posted in self help by Steph Auteri on May 7, 2008
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join me.I already raved about my enjoyment of Danny Wallace’s Yes Man, which was funny and insightful and made me giggle in public, multiple times.

What I haven’t gotten the chance to tell you yet is that, immediately after finishing Yes Man, I ordered Wallace’s first book, Join Me.

In Join Me, Wallace almost accidentally builds a cult — or, as he prefers to call it, a collective — by placing an ad asking people simply to Join Him. Before long, he has a rapidly growing yet directionless following.

In a moment in which he must choose between using his powers for good or evil, he lands on the side of the greater good, making its his group’s mission to do good deeds unto others.

And thus a movement is born, in which people who may not have have thought to do good deeds for the sake of doing good deeds are suddenly seeking them out!

It’s a great read and, frankly, inspiring.

It leads me to bemoan the lack of volunteering in my life. Aside from singing in various volunteer choirs, and participating — by the skin of my teeth — in iMentor last year, it’s been awhile since I reached the dizzying volunteer heights of my junior high and high school years. Yea, my list of extracurriculars — lovingly prepared by my mom for the sake of college applications — was rife with volunteer activities, including a stint at the town library, the Clifton Juniorettes, Safety Town, CCD, etc. Wallace’s book reassures me with the promise that weekly, and even small, good deeds can be just as worthy and rewarding as involvement in a volunteer organization. Still, if you have a tough time coming up with your own ideas, it’s worth checking out VolunteerMatch for an activity that fits your life.

Another lesson learned in the reading of Join Me was in the power of groups. Momentum. Community-building. Support.

It reminds me of the first sermon I heard at CUC, in which the good Rev extemporized about personal ministries and the importance of lending your time and effort to the greater good. At the time, I found it especially applicable to my life, because my attendance that morning was due to a personal search for community…a community that was united by its good deeds.

I am thankful for the varying communities I belong to: that at hoop class, filled with members who lead me in a sort of body-driven meditation with my hoop every week; that at CUC, which brings me ever closer to a liberal definition of faith; the blogging and publishing community, including the NY Bloggers Meetup Group, that keeps me connected with others in my field and provides me with new opportunities; the community of friends who provide me with perspective and sanity just about every day…And I miss past communities that have dissolved, such as the writing group I was once a part of, or the church choir I recently left.

There is much to be said about being a joiner. If you’re feeling a bit isolated from the world lately — and even if you’re not — consider joining a new group, and observe how it enriches your life.


Finding Religion, or a Reasonable Facsimile Thereof.

Posted in self help by Steph Auteri on February 29, 2008
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I recently posted about this over at Stephanerd, but I thought it would be good to do a pared-down, less excruciating version of that post over here.
To start with, Sunday mass was something I did out of habit as I was growing up. Or not even that. It was something I did because I had no choice, and if I grumbled about it, I would get a monster guilt trip from my mother.

Especially if my grumbling happened to fall upon Mother’s Day.


(notice the look of fear here?)

The Roman Catholic dogma itself — or, by extension, my faith — was never something I ever thought about or questioned. It was just something I was.