My life and circumstances have not always been easy and like most people I have had struggles and hardships at different times in my life. However, whether the strain was emotional, physical or financial I have always known that I have been blessed.
You see, like you, I have been chosen to be a child of God and He has given me the greatest gift of all: free will to choose him as my God, my Father and my Creator, so I have always felt the desire to give back and to help others, after all, it is what we were created to do.
But what happens if you feel like you can’t afford to give back? Society has perpetuated a notion that, “giving back” has a monetary value to it and only by this avenue alone will we make a difference. This is entirely untrue for both the giver and the receiver. Giving of one’s time is just as valuable as money, if not more so.
We have all seen and heard ads for the conglomerate types of charities asking you to give financially; tugging on our heart strings making us feel guilty if we don’t whip out your checkbook at that very moment to help their cause. Now, I am not trying to bash some of these worthwhile causes, many of them do much needed research and work and many use the funds wisely and efficiently, however some larger and well known charities are operating on a “for profit” budget, so a large portion of our dollars that we donate go to paying their sometimes hefty salaries and go to throwing large, garish parties to bring in even more profit.
When I left the corporate world, it didn’t take me long to feel the restlessness of extra time on my hands. Don’t get me wrong, managing a household of 7 people and 4 dogs takes up a lot of time, but unlike before, when I did not have the time to donate physical time for a cause or charity that was close to my heart, I now found myself in a position to do so.
The question before me was: with so many needs for local volunteers and charities how did I want to make a difference? I started to investigate some of my local organizations that were looking for help. I had approached this as if I were researching a large purchase for my home. I felt deep down, if the cause did not resonate with me, then both myself and the organization were not going to benefit.
I was not having any luck with my search, until one day after Sunday services I mentioned to my priest my dilemma. He actually pointed me in the direction of one of the community’s food pantries. Later that week, I gave them a call and they were more than happy to have me come and help out. They had told me that if I wanted, I could volunteer a few times to see if it was going to be something I would want to continue doing before they added me to their permanent roster. I went and volunteered for an afternoon shift of 3 hours of work in the back room of the pantry, packing up food for families in need. My fellow team mates were in their retirement years and older, and at first I thought this was not going to be a good match for me, but when the 3 hours were over, I had really enjoyed the work and the people enough to come back and do it again. I am happy to say, that I have been volunteering at this food pantry with the same great group of folks a few times a month for the past 3 years and I genuinely look forward to each time it is my turn to help out.
So while we as a family do tithe to our church on a weekly basis, we have also given back in ways that may not be considered when thinking of charity. Some examples of how we and you can give back without making a huge impact on your wallet and making the “for profit” charity organizations wealthier:
1.We have donated clothes, household items and furniture to Goodwill or Salvation Army that we no longer want or use.
2.We have donated old blankets, towels and a bag or two of cat or dog food to the local animal shelter.
3.We have purchased an extra bag or two of groceries for some of our neighbors that had fallen on hard financial times.
4.We have made extra batches of food or cookies for family, friends and neighbors that have had suffered a loss.
5.We have collected items such as toiletries, socks and blankets over a year’s time and donated them all in one shot to the local shelters.
6.We have volunteered at charity walks and 5-K runs as staff members that pass out water or food, help people sign in and other organizational tasks.
7.We have given bottles of water, cups of coffee and bought lunches for people who were in obvious need as we passed them while we are out and about.
8.We have helped seniors play bingo at a retirement home.
9.We have read to children at “story times” at libraries and schools.
10.We have packed backpacks full of supplies for kids going back to school.
Some have argued that giving back is purely a selfish act, that it makes one feel better about oneself or that they are waiting for a glorified pat on the back. Giving back is rewarding, I believe that Jesus gave of himself to us, over and over again and I have come to realize I have been blessed in so many aspects in my life; whether it be my health, my family and friends, the comforts and necessities that help me sustain my life, my intelligence, my patience and compassion, and the list of blessings and gifts that have been bestowed upon me goes on and on. I am grateful and happy that I have the luxury to “give back” and I gladly look forward to doing and giving more of my time and efforts for many years to come.