We love books, both my husband, myself and our two kids. While we have different tastes, my husband and I do share a love for books about business, and lifestyle design. After reading Chris Guillebeu‘s book, The Art of Non-Conformity, in September, I felt inspired. The message of his book is simple: Live the life you want and give back (paraphrasing). It’s an easy read book full of interesting stories. The book sparked an ongoing discussion about what we want for our lives and how we want to give back to the world.
For the following two months, I struggled to feel like what I’ve done or am doing to give back is really making a difference. After all, there are people building wells to destitute villages far away or starting schools or setting up amazing programs in our country. Then, we met Chris during his book tour stop in Seattle. Meeting him was really enjoyable, but key to the event was meeting folks who had been reading his blog months before the book arrived on our doorstep. His wife was charming and inviting. I found some inspiration from a chat with her.
Now, I’ve always been one to volunteer for projects no matter where I lived. These have given me experience working on a documentary (basically updating an email list or researching news photos), an oral history project in rural NE Oregon (where I listened to 3rd generation farmers and their wives talk about change in the community) and now on a hyper local level in the North Delridge Neighborhood Council.
After I had my first baby, I wasn’t sure I had much time to give. I could barely find time to brush my teeth. Then came baby number two. Again, I thought, how can I get back to learning things that interest me and volunteer (notice the theme above, documentary, interviews, etc.). About a year into being a mother of two kids, I got my opportunity to branch out in 2009.
Our local park had a sorry looking playground. Some bolts were visibly missing, and the equipment was not accessible to children under age 5 or anyone too short to reach the platform of a jungle gym. I felt frustrated, and would drive to other playgrounds. Then, an opportunity came for our neighborhood to build a new playground. Thanks to the Neighborhood Council, namely a Co-Chair (a Mommy), we secured a grant and the help of the non-profit playground builder, KaBoom! What followed was an amazing experience working with fellow neighbor volunteers. In 6 hours, we build a new playground and gave the park a much needed maintenance overhaul with 275 volunteers!
Believe it or not, the magnitude and satisfaction of that experience got lost. I still felt like I wasn’t doing much. Flash forward to meeting Chris and his wife. The busy month of December didn’t leave me much time to digest everything. But, what I found for myself was that indeed serving on the neighborhood council was good enough. I realized that maybe I needed an additional outlet to share some of my other interests and passions. And that is how this blog was born.
Yesterday I enjoyed the natural high of giving back. Our City Hall had an open house, and I represented the neighborhood council with the Co-Secretary as we toured the Mayor’s office and spoke with council members. It was a neat experience to get answers to questions that have plagued our council as we’ve waded through levels of government. It was a fresh reminder that I can make some difference and give back to my community, however small I feel sometimes.
I want to encourage everyone to give back. I’m not just talking about giving money to a pledge drive (totally worthy cause). Think about your passions, your interests or things you want to learn. No matter what, you can find an outlet to volunteer to match one of those. The Boys and Girls Club is a great example. My friend, Cassie, is a Big Sister and she’s awesome! Not babysitting much as a teen, this is giving her experience with kids (not that it’s the goal of her volunteering). But, it could be if you’re thinking about becoming a parent. Or a teacher, or counselor or anything pertaining to kids.
I hope you go out there and give back in whatever method best suits you.