Tag Archives: volunteering

“We’ve Got Time to Help”

12 Sep

I’m a huge advocate of volunteering, as I’ve discussed here and here.  I stumbled across an Oregon-based organization, We’ve Got Time to Help, whose members are comprised largely of people who have been laid off and are using some of their free time to improve their community.  Their philosophy reflects the incredible value of volunteering, on both the “givers” and the “getters.”

While we are still trying to find steady employment we realized we had time and skills that could benefit others in their time of need and, in the process, feel better about ourselves. After knocking on countless doors, sending out innumerable resumes and contacting thousands of people our personal self worth started sliding. Instead of letting it get to us we decided to help ourselves by helping others.

Every person on Earth has a skill or some experience that can help someone else. In these bleak times, we need to stand together, act together, and help one another in our greatest time of need.

Get Up, You Privileged SOBs: A Call to Arms

8 Sep

Seriously, I calculated it.

Chances are, if you’re reading this blog, you’re well-educated.  I’m also betting that, as one of our readers, you may have questioned the meaning of your education, or at least witnessed some of our own struggles with elitism.  “Whoa,” you may have thought, “I went to a prohibitively expensive private school that’s highly ranked on U.S. News and World Report.  According to my calculations, that must make me smarter than the average early-20-something bear!  (Or maybe that’s something I tell my parents to justify their much emptier bank account.)  Regardless, how should I feel about this privileged elitism, and more importantly, what should I do with my top-notch education?”  Or maybe I’m the only one thinking this, and I’m about to project a whole lot of inner turmoil onto our friends, family, and unsuspecting strangers who’ve stumbled upon this site looking for proper career advice.

We live in a country where higher education is still very much a dream for millions of people.  Hell, we live in a country where finishing high school poses a challenge to many students, and if they do, they may not be reading a functional level.  Let us not then, dear readers, consider ourselves privileged, but lucky that we were born into zip codes that had good school systems, and into families who had the time and resources to cultivate us into good students.

I don’t need to tell you the value and the importance of a good education.  I don’t need to tell you the phenomenal career you can have, or the fat paycheck you can earn.  But, have you considered what life is like without a basic education?  I’m not talking about knowing why we have Columbus Day, or who shot President Lincoln.  I’m talking about skills that give you the ability to read and understand mortgage applications, road signs, or warning labels on prescriptions.  Those same reading, comprehension, and analytical skills you get from school, which allow people to get a job, hold a job, and succeed in that job.  The skills that you and I have, and take for granted.

23% of America's homeless are children. That's messed up.

Here’s my point, however sanctimonious it may be: it’s time to stop feeling bad about the fact that we were allowed to receive fantastic educations, and it’s time to put them to use.  Good use.

For those of you who feel guilty about your randomly bestowed elitism, there is only one solution: get off your ass, embrace your education, and leverage it to abolish the notion of “privileges” by making your lifestyle and education a reality for everyone.  The issues of illiteracy, poverty, unemployment, homelessness and countless more are going to be solved, for the most part, by people who hold post-secondary degrees.  The revolution will be televised Youtubed, and it’ll be carried out by bookish, idealistic post-grads like us.

So postpone Wall Street for a couple years.  Join AmeriCorps.  Be an advocate.  Volunteer.  Get down and dirty.    Realize that your work, from legislative reform to clerical drudgery, impacts your chosen mission in a big, big way.  And you should do this work, because only a few people can.  There are so many people who are counting on that big, fat, sexy brain of yours, so don’t disappoint them.

Volunteering: Leads to Diseases and Happiness

19 Jun

Lately, I’ve had kind of a warm, floaty feeling in my chest and abdomen.  My first thought was, “EBOLA?!”  www.WrongDiagnosis.com tells me that, unless I’m vomiting blood, suffering from diarrhea, and have got a bad case of hiccups, Ebola was, as promised, the wrong diagnosis.  Undeterred, I turned to the WebMD symptom checker to determine my condition.

How could I neatly plug this feeling into the pre-approved symptom checklist?  It’s that kind of sensation where you radiate zen, but also feel capable of doing backflips on a waverunner. This must be what it feels like to be Angelina Jolie, which, in all honesty, is medically concerning to me.  I did my best to translate these concerns to my Internet doctor.

WebMD Sarah is modest, and apparently owns a princess pony. I don't know why.

The two clear possibilities for my new condition was either Supraventricular tachycardia, or Constipation (adult). (Presumably, this advanced form can purchase cigarettes and naughty magazines.)

Which one is it?  Admittedly, my diet is pretty light on the Metamucil, so adult constipation is a strong contender, and likely the true culprit.  However, Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) shouldn’t be ruled out entirely.  According to WebMD, “SVT means that from time to time, your heart beats very fast for reasons other than exercise, high fever, or stress.”  Ahh.  So Doctor WebMD,  could SVT also mean that I’m riding a high, enjoying the rush and satisfaction that some newfound activity has given me?

It didn’t answer me, so I’m forced to conclude that yes, this was definitely the case.

Is it obnoxious to talk about how awesome and life-changing your volunteer work is?  Probably, and you can also probably tell what I’m about to do.

Recently I’ve been volunteering as an adult literacy tutor, and working with my two students has been invigorating.  They have different needs, and it takes ingenuity and creativity to handle both of them.  I don’t know if I’m a good tutor, but the process of learning how to effectively teach is surprisingly enjoyable.  It’s inspiring to see the dedication my students put into obtaining their goals, and knowing that they depend on my help pushes me to produce the best lessons I can.  This experience has also settled me on a career path: educational reform, something I’ve always believed in but never quite committed to pursuing until I saw the harsh realities of life without a basic education.

I haven’t worked this hard at something since college, which ended five months ago.  I went from spending 12 hours a day thesis-writing to doing nothing.  To have goals of my own again made me, in a word, happy. Having not been happy for a while, I wasn’t used to feeling it, so I was surprised when I noticed.  “Huh, I’m not miserable or even apathetic.  Cool.  What do you call this again?”

What’s really surprising is my attitude shift.  Suddenly I’m not in a total rush to bust the hell out of Florida.  I’m okay with letting my big cookie of life crumble however it pleases, and not just because I now have two good reasons to stay.  Stressing about my future got me nowhere, so why not try the opposite and see what happens?  This doesn’t mean I won’t actively pursue my job hunt, I just won’t keep at it like a dog in heat.

My point is this: Volunteering is the best thing for the unemployed. Not only are you doing something again, but you’re doing something that matters.  Having an impact will in turn positively impact you.  It’s re-energizing, and maybe it’ll help you sort out some of your priorities.  And if it leads to Supraventricular tachycardia, well, then you know you’re really doing something special.