As a society, we are more than a simple collection of individuals. We are a community. That's easy to forget in this day and age when our society seems to be leaning heavily toward the "all about me" or "what's in it for me" outlooks among its citizens. It's easy to ignore a neighbor in need because it might require some extra effort or cost on our part. Giving to others or contributing to the greater good seemingly runs counter to our capitalistic society that rewards us for accumulating as much stuff as we possibly can. Our "worth" is too often tied to the size of our house, the flashiness of our vehicle, the balance in our bank accounts, and other material standards. While focusing solely on looking out for ourselves, we frequently forget to look out for others and for our community.
This is what makes volunteering so important and, for me, so rewarding. It's a reminder that I am part of something greater than myself, and by spending some of my free time contributing to something that others in the community will appreciate and enjoy, I'm giving back to a community from which I also take.
Red Zone Writing is involved in a number of community efforts in a number of ways. Sure, there is the advertising aspect of it as a reward: I get my logo up around town in return for my company's donation. But it's not exactly like clients blow up my in-box to hire me as soon as my logo goes up at the local softball fields. That's more a long-term investment--getting that logo out there and sinking into people's subconscious. If that was my only goal, however, I could do a lot more effective advertising than through volunteer work.
No, there's more to it than that. I'm particularly active with my local Kiwanis Club, the Danville Girls Softball Association, They're Our Kids, and Hendricks County Youth as Resources. You might notice a common theme there, especially if you know that Kiwanis' slogan is "serving the children of the world." They all have to do with working with kids.
Working with kids is my favorite kind of community service. For one, I have two of my own, and I want to do what I can to make my community a safe and happy place for my children. Second, I spent 15 years as a probation officer, and in that time, I was constantly neck deep in antisocial behavior, dysfunctional families, substance abuse, poor education, and other factors that led to the endless flow of people sitting in front of me. After awhile, it became clear that probation and the rest of the judicial system does nothing for the vast majority of people that it deals with. That perpetual sense of futility was a huge driving force behind my career change.
What volunteering with kids now allows me to do is to get on the front end of all of those issues. Through Kiwanis, I can participate in the distribution of funding and the execution of programs that benefit my community's youth. Through the softball association, I can help promote the invaluable lessons learned through sports to hundreds of young ladies each season. Through They're Our Kids, I can help parents be better parents by having access to local schools and organizations at their fingertips. And through Youth as Resources, I can help promote pro-social behavior among our kids.
There is something indescribably rewarding about taking an hour out of my time a few times a week to help a girl learn how to hold a bat, position her elbow, and follow through with a swing and then watching her finally make solid contact with a pitch. A simple spontaneous outburst of "Wow! Nice hit!" brings a smile to her face that lights up my world. Kids who get praise like that continue to enjoy the sport, they're less likely to get involved in substance abuse, and they're more likely to stay out of trouble and stay on top of their education. They stay out of the judicial system, and they lead happy, productive lives that are beneficial to my community.
That's my reward. And it really takes very little effort at all to have a positive impact.
Give it a try and see if you get the same reward.