As I write this I’m sitting on the famous Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil about to go watch the World Cup Game of Spain v. Chile at the fan fest down the street. In a few days I’ll attend the Russia v. Belgium World Cup Match in Maracana Stadium in Rio. My trip here, my hotel on Copacabana beach and all the World Cup games were completely free for me. The only reason I am here is that 22 years ago I decided to join the Community Service Corps in my high school and it has impacted every part of my life ever since.
Doing things for others is what has given me everything I believe is great in my life.
Doing community service is the way I met my wife, is how I paid for my college, taught me almost everything I know about working with people, showed me elements of the world I would have never of seen, taught me countless life and day to day lessons, helped me appreciate what I have, and way too many other things to name. The lessons I learned helping others through community service are the lessons I use every day at work and at home. It’s even helped me learn how to organize a great party. Just to name a few more:
- The skills I learned building homes for Habitat for Humanity help me fix things around my house, and recognize how lucky I am to even have a house.
- The tactics it took to teach a group of kindergartners on a Navajo reservation are things I use to keep my kids engaged.
- The organizing principles of fundraising and organizing I learned organizing Dorney Park trips in high school are what helped me start a non-profit group.
- Starting a non-profit group has helped me learn what it takes to run a small company, and how to engineer programs that have sustainable impact not reliant on one person or funding source.
Marketing, finance, leadership, quality, human resources, creativity, innovation, sales, and just about every other ‘business-y’ skill you might want to develop in life has been presented as an opportunity to learn because of the different community service programs I’ve been involved in.
Most importantly, throughout all my experiences I believe I’ve learned to be incredibly grateful for what I have, to care for others, and realize that the world is a lot bigger than what I might see everyday.
Given all that helping others has taught me and others I know who do similar activities, I wonder why it’s not more popular. Why do more kids sign up for little league vs. girl or boy scouts. Why do more parents prefer their kids to be on the school’s sports team vs. the school’s community service group? Why do professional sports players make more than non-profit CEO’s?
And yes, I didn’t play many sports throughout my school years and do believe there are good qualities to being on those teams, but in comparing it to what I know about sports in terms of developing young people, I would say that community service is much more impactful. Yes, sports teaches many valuable lessons, but usually the opportunity to be involved with organized sports wanes after high school or college years. You can continue serve others forever.
Also, many people get involved with sports in the hopes that they, or their kids, will get some type of scholarship or end up on a professional sports team. Well, there’s only so many members of professional sports teams so your chances are pretty slim. However, there’s no limit to the number of people who could be doing something to change the world, so you have a great chance of being able to do that.
I’m thankful every time I think about how I got introduced to the idea of helping others. When I was just a little kid, I remember my mom getting calls some nights when a home in the area would catch fire or some other reason a family needed help. She volunteered for the Red Cross and she would help the families get back on their feet. I distinctly remember her telling me one particular time how she was trying to collect clothes (by taking some out of her closet) for some people who just lost all of theirs. I didn’t necessarily ‘do’ anything related to Community Service for a number of years after that, but having that type of role model is what led me to do the things that have built the rest of my life.
How will you be a role model for helping others? Where will it take you, and where will it take the person you influence?
As for now, I’m off to the beach to watch the game, I happened to win a contest at work that celebrated people who did caring acts for others and sent me here. Sure, the material type things that you can get out of doing acts of service are nice – like the random contest win – but the things it’s changed in me are worth a million times more.
Get involved. Go Serve.