OUR VIEW: Find one way to give back
The Boy Scouts have a motto: Do your best to be prepared for service. Each of us finds ourselves in different life situations. Some of us in these recessionary times are struggling to survive and thrive. Others of us find it easier going getting beyond the struggle to make ends meet.
Whatever our situation, we should find one way to give back to our community. That’s the take-home message of the Real People article on Evelyn Spikes written by Trish Yerges and published in Monday’s Observer.
The retired teacher was lauded for her community improvement activities. At the end, Spikes concluded by saying people should get involved in one volunteer activity. Not five. Not 10. One.
Most people have good intentions. They want to do some good for their communities but have a hard time deciding which organization to support, which cause to champion. It’s like going into an ice cream shop with 36 flavors or a book shop with 1,000 titles to choose from. People often either get overwhelmed by choices, or overcommit and work themselves into a bundle of wet rags to the detriment of their home life.
We are not trying to be Mother Teresa here. We are not trying to win the Nobel Prize for volunteerism. We just want to make the city, county, state and nation a 10 percent better place to live.
Face it. America is a country of overcommitment. We have to make a massive commitment to our job to succeed. We are in a 24/7 society that believes bigger is better and more is better yet.
A more subtle approach might be preferable. Something is better than nothing. Just as you should live within your means, you should volunteer within your means, whether you’re still working or are retired. Spend your volunteer energy carefully. Avoid burnout. Achieve balance.
Volunteering is more than just an altruistic activity. Studies show that people who volunteer are more likely to stay healthy and live longer.
Volunteering is something anyone can do, no matter their age. But with the wave of Baby Boomers retiring within the next decade, many will feel a need to find something useful to fill the void leaving work has made in their lives. Ever since the 1960s and 1970s, the Boomers have been big into social causes. Now is the chance to do more than carry protest signs decrying diet soda or fast-food joints. Now is the time to put that social activism into action, helping right here at home, behind the scenes, whether that is being a volunteer driver for Meals on Wheels or moving furniture for Donations Unlimited.
Spikes has it right. Just find that one thing. The first try might be a dead end. Don’t give up. Be patient until you find your volunteer niche. You and the organization you help will be glad you persevered.