How many times have you been at a school, church or community event and thought to yourself, “I could do __________ better?” Whether it was how the event organizers had written the program – misspellings and all, or the poorly constructed stage that you knew with your workshop full of tools you could have squared up in a few hours, or even the simple organization of the post-meeting dessert buffet, the need for volunteerism has never been greater!
I think back to the days when communities were smaller and more self-sufficient (or perhaps it was just the smaller community from which I came), but we all seemed to do a better job of taking care of our own, of stepping up and participating and giving back to ensure we were all contributing of our time and talents to ensure the needs of our communities and their residents were being met. We made sure no one did without: children in classrooms had parents who readily volunteered to help teachers read, prepare class projects and support school programs. The local accountant helped the PTA or the community museum balance the books; the bakery made sure the end of the day’s leftovers were delivered to the local orphanage and children there had treats with their evening meal. We all found ways to look at the unique and special talents we were given and reinvest them back into the communities we live and work in to better society.
Yes, the world today has become more demanding of us all. Most household’s require all adults to work outside the home to make ends meet. We all seem to drive further to our jobs and juggle seemingly more and more responsibilities than our parents ever did. But we also seem to have a lot more discretionary luxury and conveniences to entertain us and lighten our load. Deep down, I honestly think that there is a balance of time none of us are seriously considering.
And what if we gave back some of that time to benefit the greater good?
When I think about the small community I grew up in, it seemed like people were more engaged and involved in helping others and working toward the common good. Perhaps it was the time society was in back then, or just the nature of small town ways, but I didn’t see the hurt or the dependency on public programs that it appears society is now so reliant upon. We all have talents and gifts that, if we made more time to give back, the world really could be a better place.
How more viable could your community pantry be if the local grocer helped them understand how to rotate and organize their good stocks, or leverage his relationship with local vendors to donate samples and discontinued product? What benefits might come to a local private school’s enrollment efforts in the Dad with his own PR firm helped them develop a more robust and effective campaign? Where could the local boys’ and girls’ club’s after-school program take their capital campaign program with the help of some pro bono legal and CPA support? Where can you give of your time and talents?
“You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and to impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.” —Woodrow Wilson
Someone once asked the anthropologist Margaret Mead (1901-1978), “What is the first sign you look for, to tell you of an ancient civilization?” The interviewer had in mind a tool or article of clothing. Ms. Mead surprised him by answering, a “healed femur”. She went on to explain that when someone breaks a femur, they can’t survive to hunt, fish or escape enemies unless they have help from someone else. Thus, a healed femur indicates that someone else helped that person, rather than abandoning them and saving themselves. It is a pretty amazing story when you think about it. After all, volunteering is really all about helping to heal the proverbial ‘broken femurs’ in the worlds in which we live, work and play.
If you are looking for how you can get plugged into volunteering opportunities, there are hundreds of organizations in your local area that are clamoring for help! If you don’t know where to start, two organizations that do a great job of connecting people and needs are VolunteerMatch.org and Actions Without Borders. Both are among many websites geared to offer connections between the talents of people looking to serve and the organizations in need!
Don’t discount volunteering because you are too busy with work or have other priorities in 2013 around making new friends, finding a new job, etc., Volunteering offers some amazing opportunities and benefits most people who haven’t gotten involved in giving back often overlook:
- Opportunities to make new friends and develop relationship skills
- Learn and hone critical career skills
- Gain experience in new fields, or refresh skills you may have put on hold during a career hiatus
- Have fun and experience the fulfillment of sacrifice and serving others
Giving of our time and talents is a gift we should all be grateful that we can be able to do. Find time in 2013 to see how you can make your world a better place by giving back! I’ll bet you anything that the one who benefits the most is you!