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After reading an insightful post from the NVR Guys about volunteerism and giving back, I was so moved by it that I decided to expand on my response to it which was:
“I’ve always liked the old Shirley Chisholm quote: “Service is the rent that we pay for the privilege of living on this earth.” To that end, you guys are operating at a surplus. I think one of the best things that you can do for yourself is to give back…it’s actually, a selfish endeavor really, because you get back much more than you give. There is nothing more satisfying than knowing that you’ve made the difference in someone’s life. It really is a beautiful thing.
Even if you think you have nothing to offer, there is always someone who is sick, infirmed or elderly and would love the company of even strangers because so many of their own families have abandoned them. Giving companionship doesn’t require any special talent, only a willing heart”.
One look at the news on any given day and we can be overwhelmed by the massive needs in our own country and abroad. Suddenly, it makes us question our ability to exact real change when such seemingly insurmountable problems exist. We realize our own frailty and relative insignificance in the scheme of things and convince ourselves that the problem is too big to tackle.
This gives us a momentary reprieve when we feel justified to do nothing. We wait for others to pick up the slack to do the things that we’ve assured ourselves that is much bigger than ourselves. We see issues like teen pregnancy and wring our hands and pontificate about how difficult it will be for the young parent and her child. Yet, we won’t muster up the energy to call a teen pregnancy prevention center and become a mentor who could possibly help to prevent another pregnancy.
We forget that one community’s cold can become the larger society’s flu epidemic. To ignore societal issues today could result in more problems tomorrow. We can’t continue to allow ourselves to be spectators anymore because the need is too great. There’s a great saying “Think Globally, Act Locally”. I think we can all lend a hand in our own communities. Whether that’s volunteering at the local food shelter, homeless shelter, teen outreach center….there is always a place for each of us to add our special talents and gifts toward the betterment of mankind. Most importantly, the main cost will be your time. Every one of us has 24 hours a day to fill, what do you plan to do with yours? One person can make a difference, and then solutions can become cumulative because every little bit helps.
There is also a psychological payoff to volunteering. The satisfaction that you will get from reaching out and making a difference in this world is beyond amazing. Leaving the world better than you found it is what we all should strive for. Every good deed brings about a positive change in someone’s life. Sure, we could all be selfish and only concern ourselves with our own families, our own problems….then you will have to ask yourself whether you are a part of the problem or the solution.
I used to attend a church where the rallying cry was to not concern yourself with the troubles of the world. That could be interpreted in one way, but their version was to separate yourself completely from those who did not follow the faith. They wanted to create an insular community where only people who believed what they believed mattered. I thought it was the antithesis of what being a Christian truly was. I always think back to a refrain in Stevie Wonder’s song, “As”: “so make sure when you say you’re in it but not of it. You’re not helping to make this earth a place sometimes called Hell.” It’s one thing to do nothing because you feel the problem is too great, it’s another to ignore the world’s ills with malice and forethought. One need not share the same ideology, faith, belief or politics to help someone else, just a willingness to look beyond the surface to see something much deeper. Love.
Sometimes, extending your hand doesn’t require anything more than a random act of kindness. Pay for the driver behind you in the drive-through or offer to pick up an elderly neighbor’s groceries. Visit an assisted living community and share your talents (whether that is singing, reading, listening, etc.). You will be amazed at how much they will appreciate your company because many have either no family or a family who no longer cares. So, whenever you find yourself asking the question, “What can I do?” The answer is ‘make a difference’.
Are you ready to jump in with both feet? Here’s a short list of places that are always looking for volunteers. I would love to hear about the organizations that you support and believe in.