What Happened to Giving Back?

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I  am 33 years old.  If I gave you a list of all of the organizations I have been a part of or volunteered for in some respect, your head would spin.  I am not making this statement to brag in any way, but to illustrate a very important point:  I am in the minority.

The past few years I have noticed an extreme shift across the board, regardless of the type of organization… It is HARD to recruit new members and volunteers.

It got me thinking… Has our generation become so self consumed and “busy” that there is no time to give back? Or is it that it’s just not important to many people?

I always get the questions: “Why do you do so much?”  “Why are you always volunteering?”  “Why don’t you just say no?”

I had to think about this because I never really stopped to think why, I have simply always been involved.  I enjoy giving back.  I’ll say that again… I ENJOY giving back.  Is this such a foreign idea??  When did we become such a selfish society that more people do not raise their hands or give their time?  When did people close their eyes to all of those in the world who need our service?

We are all busy.  I have a demanding career as a financial advisor, my husband has a demanding career as a realtor.  We have a 2 year old and a 5 month old.  We have family obligations… plans with friends… birthday parties to throw… Baptism celebrations… a house to keep clean… three dogs to feed walk and care for…  The list goes on.

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I will be the first to admit that in the past two years I have scaled down how many organizations I am actively involved in, but it never even crossed my mind to give up that part of my life.  It is important to me as a person.  I wish I could do more.  

I will teach my boys how important it is to give back and to do their part to make a difference. Whether it is in the lives of other children, animals, the community… whatever they feel a passion for.  If we don’t teach our children the importance of giving back, who will?  Can you imagine a world with no compassion?  I can’t.  But if we lose the will to serve others in some way, shape or form, it will come. 

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Here is Hunter getting an early start… learning that volunteering can be FUN!  Making a Scarecrow to benefit the local Junior Women’s Club in Haddonfield, NJ.

I challenge you to think of ways that you can give your time and talent.  Did you notice that I mentioned nothing about money?  Here is the best part about giving back:  It can be done for FREE.  Each of us have talents, and each of us have time.  For those of you in South Jersey, I can recommend many local organizations who could use your help.  But no matter where you are geographically, there are organizations that would gladly have you.  Pick an organization that is near and dear to your heart, whether it is your faith, children, animals… let your passion fuel you!  Show your children how it feels to see your hard work make a difference.  If you are having trouble finding a cause that moves you, ask friends, family, or colleagues.  If you are new to an area, go to good old Google.

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What do you have to lose?  A few hours of your time?

Are you shy in new situations?  Grab a friend or family member to join you so that you don’t feel uncomfortable.  The times that I have been a new volunteer or member of an organization, I have been pleasantly surprised at how quickly I was made to feel at home because all of the others there share a common thread, they want to give back.  I have made some amazing friends through volunteer work.

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So what are some of the benefits that I have experienced from giving back?

  • It feels good to give back.  Using my time to do something for someone else IS rewarding.  Sometimes the work going into an event or organization is tiring, but the end product always makes me smile!  That end product has always, time and time again, been worth the time and effort.
  • Camaraderie.  Working with others who also have a passion for the cause is often a family atmosphere.
  • New friends.  New friends who also have similar values because you were in the same space giving time or talent you know that you at least have some things in common.  I have gained some lifelong friends from our time together in organizations where we worked together for a common cause.
  • Teamwork.  We have a saying in our local Junior Women’s Club, “Many hands make light work.”  It’s not a new saying, it’s been passed down for years, but it is so true!!  Working together and seeing what a team of people who are passionate can accomplish together is amazing.
  • Making a difference.  Many of the organizations I have been involved in have grown over the years.  The best feeling is getting to see how what small or large work you did affected someone’s life.  I have been a part of a local Walk 4 Family and Friends with Cancer for 6 years, and a part of our proceeds each year go to research through the Abramson Cancer Center, and the other portion goes to a fund that helps local families in need as they go through their treatment.  Getting to see what the doctors accomplish with their research as well as the families who have been helped by our grassroots event bring a tear to my eye every year.
  • Networking.   I am a firm believer that this should NOT be your sole reason for volunteering.  I can tell within someone’s first sentence at an event if they are there for the sole purpose of enhancing their resume or getting business for their day job.  Gaining contacts in different areas is a great peripheral benefit of volunteerism.  But it should be just that, something that comes secondary.  If you are SOLELY looking for networking opportunities, there are plenty of organizations out there for that.
  • Learn new skills.  Just as you have your talents that you bring to the table in volunteerism, so do the others in the room.  Share your talents and also learn from others!  Maybe you will find out you are great at organization or an amazing public speaker and you would have otherwise never used those skills.
  • Grow as a person.  I have never met anyone that said they were worse off for doing something good.  Maybe someone tried an organization and it was not what they expected, or it took them a few different organizations to find where their skills fit best, or they had a bad experience with someone else in the organization for whatever reason… But the actual act of doing something for someone or something else, will ALWAYS make you grow.
  • Complete the circle.   This may sound silly, but think about if anything has been done for you in the past to make you a better person.  Were you ever going through a rough time and an organization helped you get back on your feet?  Did you adopt a dog or a cat from a local shelter that changed your life?  One example for me is that I was adopted when I was a baby, and given an amazing and loving home with two wonderful parents who could not have a baby themselves.  I made a decision two years ago to give back by sitting on the Board of that Agency, Golden Cradle Adoption Services.  For me personally, I feel like I am giving back to the organization that gave me my family, and allowed my birth mother to feel comfortable with her decision as well.

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If you are already actively volunteering, THANK YOU.  If not, give it a try!  Grab a buddy, do it together.  As moms we all need some adult time, and I enjoy spending time with other moms in a social setting where we are also giving back.  Find something you like and pass it on.  Spread the word and teach your children as you go.  Every time we go to an event, whether it is a walk, or something fun, we do our best to explain to our sons why we are doing it.  They may not understand it yet, but just like everything else in life, the more we repeat it and the more we teach, they eventually will.

Let’s make our world a better place, one person at a time, and teach our children to do the same!

About the author
I'm Tara, a married, full-time working mother of two boys under two, and three furry "kids" that make our family whole. Life as a full time working mom trying to balance married life, parenting, three dogs, and some "me" time along the way is chaotic, but worth every moment. I hope you will enjoy some of our adventures along the way!

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