I learned a new word – from a different culture – reflecting an important value that is critically needed in our community, country and world.

Everywhere I go, I talk with people who are tired, frustrated and, frankly, cranky.  Two years of COVID and the associated loss, uncertainty and stress, have many in our community on edge.

So, as I was looking forward to the holiday honoring Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I found myself looking back at the winter holiday season just concluded.  Part of the Kwanzaa tradition focuses on umoja, or unity.  Umoja is a Swahili word and represents the first of the Seven Principles that are celebrated during Kwanzaa each December.

I mention this because as I look at our nation, and even our community, we need to take a fresh look at what unites us.  Unlike past national crises – notably after 9-11 or during World War II – this challenging time is marked not by coming together for our common goals, sacrificing for the greater good, and respecting differing perspectives.  Fear, on all sides, has stoked the fires of division in our country and across the world.

That is why umoja is important for me – a core value seen from a different perspective.

Another way to promote unity is by working together on a service project.  And the timing is perfect as this Monday is the MLK Day of Service. Dr. King lived a life of service to others – particularly the poor and oppressed.  So it seems appropriate that a holiday honoring his life would inspire people to serve their community rather than just take a day off work.

There are several events planned for Monday, including projects hosted by Metro Parks community centers and parks, and United Way.   I hope you will find a meaningful way to spend your time this Monday.

I got a head start on my day of service this week. I had an opportunity to engage in a service project that brought out umoja with many people I’d never met.  We came from different backgrounds and perspectives, but we all shared one thing in common: our desire to create a home for another family. And, as we have learned in a pandemic, a home is much more than a house.

I spent the morning at a Habitat for Humanity building site where we framed and raised the exterior walls for a new house, along with Kevin and Chan, the future homeowners!  This house was sponsored by the Master Builders Association of Pierce County, which explains why our crew was ahead of schedule getting all these walls built!

It was awesome to know that my small contribution to building a home was making it possible for Kevin, Chan and their four daughters to have safe, affordable place to live.  If you ever get the chance to work on something like this, I highly recommend it.

Focusing my time and energy on a positive goal with others was just what I needed – and it’s what our community needs.  Here’s to creating more umoja where we live and work.

Thanks for reading,

Bruce Dammeier Signature