A few months ago, I wrote a post lamenting the fact that I was so busy, I didn’t have time to help anyone. Sure, I was volunteering—I was chairing a committee and sitting on an advisory board at a local nonprofit—but I was so overextended that I wasn’t serving anyone (including myself) very well.
So, I did something really hard. After three years of volunteering for the same organization, I cut myself free of any formal role. I felt guilty about stepping down, but I knew that it was the right decision.
So far, I’ve found that giving back in other ways is equally gratifying. I absolutely applaud everyone who serves worthy organizations in formal, ongoing roles, but for me, having more flexibility has been great. Josh and I are lucky to be part of a wonderful group of friends, formerly “Picnic League,” now “Volunteer League,” that meets once a month to do volunteer projects.
In 2010, the group did a wide range of projects, from planting and harvesting potatoes for a food bank to raking leaves for a family affected by cancer. Here are some pictures (thanks, K & K !) from our December gathering, where we made holiday goodie boxes for Meals on Wheels clients. Even the kids got into the act by decorating cards.
The beauty of such a group is that even if not everyone makes it—and I only made it about half of the time this year—a critical mass can do a lot in just a couple of hours. The coolest part is that our kids see their parents volunteering together, not just drinking beer (though most of us do some of that, too).
In recent weeks, several other informal opportunities to give back have presented themselves to me, and it feels good to be able to step up. I’m not talking about saving whales here; I’m talking about simple acts like sending meals to a family member recovering from surgery.
I’m not writing this post to collect any “yay for you” comments (not allowed!). Rather, I want to encourage us (myself included) to think creatively about how to contribute in 2011. We all have talents, goods, and (sometimes) time that could serve others. Giving back doesn’t have to be huge, it doesn’t have to be glamorous, and it doesn’t have to involve money.
I Want to Know:
Do you have any tips for giving back without overextending yourself?
When was the last time you benefited from someone going above and beyond?
Who or what has taught you the most about giving back?
Do you have any fun ideas for volunteer projects that are appropriate for young kids?