“We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.” – Sir Winston Churchill
In a conversation with a co-worker the other day, the topic of discussion shifted to life outside of Alpha One (yes, strangely enough – I do have one). We discovered that we both are active volunteers in our local churches and share a desire to give back. In my time, I have cooked many a pot of soup, redirected cars to parking spaces, balanced finances, and more, all in the hopes of bettering both my community, and in turn – myself.
The reward we get back from assisting others, both at work and in our home life, far outweighs the time and effort we put into it. Last June, I spent a week traveling in the Southwest on a pilgrimage with a group of teens as one of their leaders and guides. The opportunity to see the world again through their young eyes and experience places I would otherwise never see was worth so much more than the time and energy I expended doing it.
There are many other opportunities out there, both for us and the consumers we serve. Being a member of a board, collecting for local shelters, or serving on a town committee, are just a few examples of civic engagement we could all follow. The truth of the matter is, our community needs us, and we in return need our community. To represent our community accurately, a healthy percentage of those Americans involved should include People with Disabilities.
On a nationwide level, the report “Volunteering and Civic Life in America” shows the volunteer rate reaching its highest level since 2006. More than 64 million Americans – or roughly one in four adults – volunteered approximately 8 billion hours, valued at $171 billion. In addition, two out of three citizens nationally (65 percent or almost 144 million citizens) engaged in informal volunteering by doing favors for and helping out their neighbors, an increase of nearly 10 percentage points from last year. Our rate of volunteering earned Maine a rank of 12th among all states.
Where can we start? April 25, 2013, is annual Pay it Forward day. There is tremendous power and positive energy in giving; it is a shame that not enough people have experienced it to the fullest. Pay It Forward Day is about all people, from all walks of life, giving to someone else and making a positive difference. At last count there were more than 500,000 people in 38 countries around the world participating on this day.
You might ask, how does this relate to our work at Alpha One? Here’s how. As we focus more of our effort on empowering people with disabilities, one of the best ways to become empowered is to get involved in some manner. By getting involved as a volunteer, a consumer will by his/her participation change attitudes and perceptions regarding disability. Being on the giving end also changes our self-perception for the better.
We can mobilize consumers and ourselves in service to address local needs and problems. We can’t look to others; we need to be the change agents. During our conversations in the homes of consumers we have the opportunity to lead by example. By showing that we at Alpha One are active and involved, we will be able to share our experiences and give examples about how our lives are richer for it.
If you volunteer, I’d like to know about it. And, what is your interest in participating in Pay it Forward Day on April 25th? If there is interest, we will look for ways to combine consumer/staff volunteering through each of our offices that day.