Are you a person who reads about a problem and tries to think of a way you can help make it better? Some topics seem pretty daunting because they are a global epidemic – waste, climate change, the loss of bees and endangered species, and human trafficking are a few hot button items. Do you lay awake at night thinking about these issues like some of my friends or do you throw up your hands and hope someone comes up with a solution? Are you in the middle? It is okay if you haven’t even thought about things like this because you are learning about it now.
Since I was little I have been what some might call a do-gooder. I come by this honestly because my mother is a lifelong volunteer for so many things. She took us to community events, collected money from us for food donations and Christmas presents for children in need for as long as I can remember. We were relatively poor and relied heavily on family in serious times of need but we always seemed to have time for volunteer work.
As we got older, we earned more money and were able to spread the wealth better. My dad and sister like to make sure the kids in their community have school supplies and fishing gear for the annual tournament. I like to volunteer for Veterans charities in the DC area and donate money to several types of non-profits. We all do what Mom, aka the family Chief of Staff, tells us to when she chooses a place for her annual donations.
It never occurred to me not to do things like this because it was something we always did. I received an award from a company where I created a recycling program in the early 2000’s and then a leadership award for being community and people oriented in my company in 2016. That was the same year my mother turned 70. I flew home for her surprise party and met several people who told stories about how nice my family is and how we always do things to help the neighbors and community. I was stunned to realize that not everyone thinks to do things to help others, especially strangers, but it also has never occurred to me to judge people for not being like us.
The flood of 1993 in Missouri sticks out in my mind as a time we helped our community. We lived in a neighborhood on a hill, just above the floodplain. Roads to our home were closed and the National Guard patrolled my friends neighborhoods and kept them out of danger. It was so bad the President arrived by helicopter on the high school football field to survey the damage. We had to help sandbag the subdivision that backed to the river. The Mississippi and Meramec Rivers spilled over the banks and broke levees like never before. One way in and one way out became the norm for a while. We watched the water rise close to spilling over the bridge on that last route into town.
Have you ever sandbagged an area to try to keep the water out of someone’s home? This is a legitimate daunting task because it is really hard work and it may or may not help. We stood in long lines and passed the bags down the way. People shoveled sand into bags and tied them, others passed them down the line, and the end of the line was the group strategically stacking them. I was a kid, basically oblivious, and struggling with this type of physical labor. I can remember people laughing at my facial expressions through the heavy lifting. In the end, the neighborhood we helped persevered through the worst of it. Others were not so lucky and I saw people’s homes and lives destroyed. These people were poor but didn’t let that stop them from moving forward.
I learned so many things from experiences like this and want to share with you, my journey through these lessons because I believe each person can make a difference in this world. Even if the difference is only for one person, it is something big. The flood taught me that you can ask for help in time of need and sometimes people will come to your aid and it will work out. Sometimes no matter what you do, the hardship will still come but it’s what you do to overcome it that makes the difference. We cannot wait for someone else to make a law or rule or to do something for us. We must get in there and do it ourselves.
If you’re not ready to jump in with both feet to save the world that is okay. However, I hope you are interested enough in how you can make tiny changes in your life to impact others in a positive way. If you are ready, let’s climb together, one step at a time.
I look forward to sharing information about recycling, reducing waste at home and work, being a conscientious traveler, energy consumption topics, and using small batch homemade goods. In addition to these articles, I’ll share information about the hot button items I mentioned above along with some great organizations who jumped into the fight for us and are already making a huge difference.