Monday, 25 March 2013

Other ways to give back

Giving back was always a part of my finances as a kid.  The rule was 10% of everything that we earned went to charity.  You could save it up as long as you wanted and could give it to any cause you wanted.  But the reality was that that 10% didn’t belong to you.  It belonged to the rest of the world; you were just managing it. 

            I carried this habit over when I started working full time for the military.  As soon as my pay hit my account 10% was put aside.  Which is why when I was faced with losing my job one of the things that I struggled with most was giving up my charity money.  I knew that I had one maybe two years left with the military and then I would be on my own with dismal job prospects.  I might even need to pay for another degree.  My head told me that it made sense to hoard as much money I could put aside to help me weather the oncoming storm. 

            At the same time my heart told me that however bad my financial prospects might get I am much better off than most of the people on this planet.  That in cutting off my giving I was shirking in my duty to the rest of the world. 

            Eventually my head won out and I discontinued my charitable giving.  I felt awful and started looking for a way to continue making a difference.  I had no money to give so I started giving away my time.  I volunteered for a local community house and tutoring a couple girls in foster care.  It was one of the best things I have ever done.  Though the impact that my actions may have made were more localized they were no less important.  I didn’t know until about six months later, but my bi-weekly visits to tutor one of my students was a turning point not only in her academics but for her socially as well. 

            Showing up regularly and taking an interest in her life made a difference that could not be made with money.  It showed her that someone cared and that someone was willing to be there even on the tough days.  Though it may sound like I worked this miraculous change on the girl I tutored, the reality is she also changed me. 

            She is one of the strongest people whom I have ever met.  She taught me a lot about endurance and humor.  Watching her persevere in the hard times made it easier to face my own.  Nothing has given me greater joy then to watch her catch on to a topic that had been eluding her, or get caught up after years of not going to school regularly.  Working with her gave me so much more than mailing a check to a charity half way around the world. 

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