This post was inspired by Corina, over at Down to Earth Mama who had the HP Magic Giveaway going, which is absolutely fantastic! Corina was generous enough to give her readers a way to enter and then even have a bonus entry. She says: "Write on a message board or your blog a post about how you have or plan to make the world a bit better. Have you volunteered? Are you planning to? The goal is to inspire those reading it to action." I know it's too late for me to enter but I think the idea of volunteering and doing good things for others is wonderful and I'm happy to have written this. Thanks Corina!
I like to think that I make a difference every day. I know that sounds less than modest, but please hear me out. I am talking about the choices I have made in my adult life in terms of how to pay the bills while staying somewhat sane. While in college in Chile, my first job was with EarthAction (the lady at the bottom is my mom!) in 1993. I translated and did the layout for their Action Alerts. Since the whole Latin-American office was just three of us, I also copied, folded and stuffed them into envelopes. It was good work. Here in San Francisco my first job was with the Rainforest Action Network (are you starting to see a theme here?); then with San Francisco School Volunteers for four years and now I work at a non-profit law firm specializing in employment law, coordinating direct free legal services to the public. The way I see it, it doesn't matter if you're answering phones, making copies, translating, training volunteers or coordinating schedules, it is all just as important in achieving a selfless goal: helping others.
Before you start thinking that I am implying that your job in a bank, at a magazine, or the post office is not as lofty or worthy, let me assure you that is not at all what I am saying. What I am saying is that I choose to work for non-profit organizations even though it pays very little money and that suits me just fine. True, I am always poor and scrambling to make ends meet, but I love what I do, I really do. I used to be a crisis phone counselor for San Francisco Women Against Rape but that was very difficult to keep up, when you signed up for a shift you had to be up at night to take phone calls, which was hard to do because we lived in a studio apartment at the time and we both worked regular hours. So I choose to work at places where we are all working for a cause bigger than ourselves. The attorneys I work with all make much less than what a first year associate makes at a big firm, and it's because of their personal beliefs, nothing more, nothing less. They all come from amazing law schools (Harvard, Boalt, Hastings, Stanford, etc.) and could work anywhere else they wanted to, and yet they stay here fighting the good fight for workers everywhere.
All non-profits rely on volunteers to do a slew of tasks that are just overwhelming when you have limited staff. Many people wrinkle their noses when you tell them all you have for them to do is filing, copying, or stuffing envelopes, as if it were beneath them. They don't realize how much they could really help by doing those tasks. Of course there are other things you can do to help, like teaching an adult how to read (usually through your local public library), translate outreach materials into another language if you are bilingual, or spending time with a youth or elderly person. The important thing to remember is that ALL OF IT HELPS, nothing is less important than anything else. Really. So, if you have time and are looking to help, choose a local not-for-profit organization and give them your time and skills. It will do a world of good!