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BLOGIVING: It’s not all about money

30 April 2008

I realize I would be doing a disservice to National Volunteer Week to only talk about giving money, when there are zillions of other ways to give and serve.  Philanthropy, after all, is at its base a LOVE of PEOPLE.  And you can love people for free.

  • (Quick tangent. Indulge me.  Driving home tonight, and there’s a Justice Jewelers commercial on the radio.  417 folks no doubt have heard at least four-hundred-and-seventeen of these ads, always with Woody Justice telling us he wants to be our jeweler.  I sometimes feel a little upset at these, because he targets the “clueless but love-struck male shopper” demographic, and reminds me that though I know plenty of clueless boys, not a one of them is buying me a diamond. [AND I’m not quite sure I’d want him to either. Fair trade and all.]  Well tonight’s was especially alienating.  And I quote, “to be truly happy you have to have someone to love.  Have you found someone to love?”  No Woody Justice, I haven’t.  And I don’t need your diamonds to be my best friend.  Thanks.)

That tangent was not quick. Apologies.

Where was I…loving people! right! One of the simplest ways—and most obvious, but easy to forget—is just through words.  Sometimes I wish there was a stronger word than “thanks.”  This word gets tossed around to everyone from your grandparents to the Starbucks drive-through guy.  Not that it’s bad to be generally polite, but sometimes I wish there were words beyond “thank you” for those moments when I want to tell someone they really saved the day.  Gratitude is so simple, but can mean so much.

I’m also really touched by Charlie Gibson’s sign off at the end of the ABC Nightly News. Have you seen it? He wraps up the news story, previews the ABC line-up, then just says, “I’m Charlie Gibson, and I hope you had a good day.”  I know, I know…it’s generic and ultimately impersonal, but the couple of times I’ve seen it, it has made me feel warm inside.  Just knowing that there are so many people who might be lonely or overworked or hopeless and who might just need a couple of kind words to start to turn things around.


Volunteering is about more than words though, too.  I love the quote Todd Parnell used in his inauguration speech at Drury just last week:  “Hope is a verb with its sleeves rolled up.”  In order to truly make change, there has to be some action to match the words.  To bring a little Jesus into it, there has to be some fruit or ain’t nothing growing.  To paraphrase.

This concept became real to me one Saturday in February.  We had a work day at The Skinny Improv, where everyone was required to be there and do odd jobs, organize costumes, build things, etc.  It is true that I volunteer to perform there, but that (most of the time. ha.) doesn’t feel like work. I love it.  There’s something different about giving yourself to an organization to do the dirty jobs.  To be on your hands and knees picking up trash.  To have sticky fingers from changing the soap dispensers.  It’s not glamorous of course.  It’s not the high heels and the black shirt.  But it’s all important.  It all adds up to giving people a break from their everyday lives, to making little moments of magic happen on stage, to creating something new that wasn’t there before and won’t happen again.

Helping people, volunteering, giving is made up of both the glamour and the grime.  Often heavy on the grime.  And I don’t mean “glamour” narrowly in the sense of recognition/fame (though that’s part of it I guess.  Giving money can get you recognition.) I mean also non-monetary rewards, like someone saying “thanks.”  That kind of recognition can be much more meaningful anyway.  

I’m learning, though, that there will be a lot of moments that feel thankless. There can be lot of fighting uphill when you’re trying to do what you think is right.  But that’s not a reason to stop.

Hm…and now real life is a metaphor for running…if that seems random, you have some catching up to do. Go back to July and start reading.  I’ll wait.

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