To people who are very actively involved in helping people who have less year round, the sudden holiday emphasis on reaching out to those in need is, I bet, obnoxious. I’m sorry to say I’m not one of the year-round do-gooders, and I’d wager that I’m not the only one who wishes she had a giving tradition that was a regular part of her life. But I’ve felt overwhelmed by the options. Sometimes, it’s hard to know who to help.
I assisted a yoga class at a middle school for autistic kids for awhile. I went through the application and background check to be a Girl Scout volunteer and then they never called me. (If it were appropriate to put a frowny face emoticon here, I would.) Should we sign up to help at a soup kitchen, become a Big Sister, drop in sporadically at a senior center, walk dogs at a shelter? What form of volunteering will best fit into our schedules and feel like the best use of our time and talents? The answer is probably that we should just do something, anything. But I think many of us are so eager to feel that we are making a difference––in a way that resonates with us with meaning––that we’re hesitant to just sign up for anything. If we’re going to make a commitment to something, we want it to be the right thing.
I’ve bopped from this to that, food pantries and animal shelters, but in the past year I realized the best way for me to give back would be continuing the biggest help I ever got. In those tender pre-adolescent and teenage years, there was a lot of tumult in my life, a lot of change, a lot of unpredictability. But there were also a lot of teachers and babysitters and one particularly awesome Big Sister along the way who taught me, without being cheesy or overt about it, that who I was was awesome, that I could be and do anything I imagined, that there was a wide world out there for me to adventure in.
I talked earlier about my word for 2011 being full. Articulate what you want, and man, it has a way of just flooding in. I’ve been working harder, writing more, cooking more, seeing my friends in ways that feels so good. All that is great, perfect even, but there’s one more thing that needs to fall into place for my sense of fullness in the new year: the right tradition of giving.
How do you guys give back in your lives, in ways both organized and unstructured? What has it brought into your life or changed about your perspective? And do any of you share that feeling of wanting to give, but not knowing what’s the best thing for you?
Photo: Longfellow quote letterpress card by Etsy seller letterary press