Stan's World - The Value of Giving Back
December 31, 2018
Whether we’re driven by the season, the holidays, or a new year, this is often the time of year for reflection. As long-time readers of Stan’s World can attest, I’m a big fan of volunteerism. Numerous studies have validated the physical, spiritual, social and emotional benefits of volunteerism, and I’ve been a beneficiary.
Especially valuable, at least for me, is that volunteering also provides perspective. We need perspective, because there may be times when we think we need more, when in fact that may not be true.
Pearl and I periodically work shifts at a soup kitchen, and we did so again this year on Christmas Day. We start our day by jointly carving 12 turkeys, and then we move on to a myriad of other tasks. (It’s a true Christmas feast: turkey, ham, stuffing, macaroni and cheese, yams, mashed potatoes, soup, salad, and trays of desserts.) About six hours after we arrived, the last pot was washed, leftovers had been refrigerated, and everything was set up for the next day’s breakfast. (This particular soup kitchen serves breakfast and lunch, 365 days a year. And they’ve been doing it for 34 years.)
I don’t know how any of the volunteers could leave without being thankful for what we have. We had spent the better part of a day feeding people who were grateful to have a hot meal in a warm room with the company of others. At that moment, that was all they needed. For some, it may have even represented all they had. While they thanked us, it could have easily been us thanking them.
I never leave the soup kitchen thinking I need a new car, or a new anything. At least for a while, I’m focused on what we did, and how our guests appreciated our work. It’s humbling, yet extremely satisfying. Even some of life’s daily aches and pains seem to recede into the background as we constantly move around to keep refilling the trays used by the servers to fill the guests’ plates.
As Sheryl Crow sang in Soak Up The Sun, “It’s not having what you want, it’s wanting what you’ve got.” As we cross the threshold into 2019, think about putting your arm around someone who needs more help than you do.