Giving Back

Kathy - greenKate Wyland

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Earlier this week I saw a delightful video on Facebook about how Tom Mabe of Prank it FWD gave the Kentucky Humane Society a surprising donation. The workers were astonished when a truck pulled up and he and his helpers unloaded a mass of gifts and equipment. Then he brought in a group of dog groomers to bathe and clip and pretty up the animals so they would look more adoptable. A truly heart-warming story. (And one I’m sure our Gayle Irwin would approve of.)

http://www.pawmygosh.com/prank-it-fwd/

Afterwards I had an interesting reaction. “While what he did was really nice, maybe the time and money would have been better spent helping a homeless shelter.” I mentally slapped my hand at the thought. What right did I have to dictate someone’s generosity? And yet I have often evaluated my giving in the same way and denigrated myself for not doing more.

Like a lot of people I was quite idealistic when I was a young woman and wanted to “save the world.” I even chose my career as a teacher so I could “inspire” the next generation and help the disadvantaged. In my mind the helping professions—teaching, medicine—were on a higher plane than any other occupation. To my frustration, it soon became clear that with my sheltered background, general naivety, and inexperience I wouldn’t be terribly successful in a low-income area. So I had to settle for middle class suburbia. But those kids didn’t need as much “saving” and I felt a failure.

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It wasn’t until after my kids were mostly flown that I had the opportunity to do volunteer work, and I felt the same compulsion to do something “important.” I volunteered for the Red Cross, but there is very little call for their services in our semi-rural area. So little, in fact, that they closed our satellite office. I worked with an adult literacy program but that only lasted a couple of years. I couldn’t seem find a serious group that fit and made me feel I was accomplishing something.

Of course, at the same time I was doing publicity for a local theater group my husband and I belonged to. I served as newsletter editor for three different equestrian groups, usually two at a time, for over ten years. I also was a committee chair for a national organization. But in my mind these were semi-frivolous activities, not real volunteer work. “Real” or not, they took a lot of effort and I burned out about the same time as I got hurt. So I ended up withdrawing for a few years.

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I’m ready to take part again, though my leg problems prevent me from doing the one thing I’d really like. I found another literacy group I think I’d enjoy but last year they didn’t really need any more volunteers. Maybe things have changed. After I’ve recovered from my knee surgery and rehabilitation, I’m going to start seriously looking again. This time I’m going to look at frivolous activities too. I don’t have to save the world any more.

How about you? What are your favorite volunteer activities? Do you work with your church or hospital or schools?

 

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