The Heart of the Proactive Volunteer: We need YOU!

I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands . You need to be able to throw something back. ~ Maya Angelou

While thinking about the topic for this blog entry, I was inspired, in a strange way, by the recent tragic events in Haiti. More than 150,000 people were killed, and hundreds of thousands more injured, during the violent 7.0 earthquake that rocked Port-au-Prince to its core. The global response, however, to the plight of the people of Haiti has been a beautiful sight to behold. Millions of dollars have been pledged and given by citizens, rich and poor, from all over the world. Donated food, water and medical supplies are now flown in on a daily basis. Thousands of doctors, nurses and rescue workers have put their daily lives on hold to travel to Haiti to help feed and care for the millions of Haitians struggling to put their country back together.

The earthquake in Haiti reminded me of another horrible tragedy that happened in recent years on our own soil: Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath that devastated the Gulf Coast. We were all in shock to see the images of angry citizens in need of water and dead bodies outside the New Orleans Superdome. In response, citizens of the world rallied around those in need, and welcomed with open arms those who were forced to leave their homes. And again, many volunteered their services to help put our Gulf Coast cities back on the map again.

While these are wonderful examples of people of all types and skill sets stepping up to the plate in response to a cry for help, I have been thinking about the notion of proactive volunteering. Now, I am the first to admit that I am one of those who really only thinks about “giving back” when natural disasters occur, or during the holidays when my family and I participate in the Salvation Army Angel Tree program, or if a friend or family member is in need of a little financial help. This is all good and well, but couldn’t I do better than being “reactive” or “seasonal” when it comes to helping out those in need in my city, country and world? Is this the example that I want to set for my two children?

If I can be completely honest, I will tell you that I have thought of every excuse in the world as to why I couldn’t volunteer or give back to a charity – “I don’t have the time,” “I’d rather spend the time with my family,” or “We are on a tight budget.” The truth is, everyone has a little extra time each week (or month) and EVERYONE has something to give, whether it’s money or just a shoulder to lean on. That’s why I have challenged myself, in 2010, to start giving back – proactively. Starting next month, my 4-year-old daughter and I will participate in the Meals on Wheels and More PALS program where we will distribute pet food one Saturday a month to clients. Additionally, the team here at Ketner Group has decided to volunteer for a different charity or cause once a quarter. Stay tuned for future blogs on this!

My volunteering adventure won’t stop there, but, as I always tell my daughter (usually when there is glue involved for art projects) – it doesn’t take much. The beautiful thing about volunteering is that all it takes is a little effort. Call me pie in the sky, but if we all put forth just a little more effort to help someone else, I can’t help but think what a large collective difference we could make.

If you are reading this blog, I’m guessing that you own a computer or have one that you use at work, which means that you probably have a paying job and a roof over your head, food in your pantry, and running water to wash your hands and take a shower with each day. It is so easy to take for granted all of the wonderful and necessary staples that we have access to, and even easier to not think about those who aren’t as fortunate. I know, because I’ve done it. If I didn’t think about the starving children I saw on the television, then they really aren’t hungry and sick. If I didn’t think about that family who lost their home and are now on the streets, then it really didn’t happen. But it did, and it happens every day – not just during Christmas or after an earthquake.

It is my hope that we challenge ourselves this year and in the years to come to be more proactive and make a difference to those who need our help – whether in your own city, or halfway around the world.
If you haven’t already, please consider donating to the Red Cross or Hope for Haiti Foundation Corporation for Haiti Relief.