It has now been exactly two weeks since my last time volunteering at the after-school program. Before writing this post, I looked over my first few posts on this blog and realized how far I’ve come in my volunteering experiences. When I began my project, I went into it hoping to make a difference, but assuming the nagging little voice in my head telling me my project would fail was right. Fortunately, that little voice could not have been more wrong.
I’ve already spent a lot of time discussing the impact my service has had on the students, but now I would like to take a moment to share the influence I’ve had on people who have kept up with my story and even learned something from it.
The first person to tell me I had influenced how they chose to live their daily lives was my great Uncle Ed; at a recent family gathering to help one of my great aunts move into her new home my Uncle Ed pulled me aside and told me that my project really made him change his ways, especially at his job. He told me that although it’s really hard to put on a smile and be nice to everyone some days, he always tried his very best to tell someone to have a good day, compliment them, or, at the very least, give the person a friendly smile and a wave. To his surprise, within a month people were commenting on how much nicer he was and what a difference it made in the workplace.
Another person who reminds me how I’ve inspired him is my boyfriend, Bryant. Every day after volunteering, I would at some point find myself gushing to him about what a great time I had at the after-school program and what I did with the students that day. After the first few times, Bryant noticed a change in himself and his attitude towards service projects. Because he was required to get a certain number of service hours each school year in high school, and even before that, service projects felt very mundane and pointless to him and he was really annoyed with having to do yet another one for a college course. However, as I told him about my volunteer work and as he completed his own, he realized “how amazing volunteering is and how one person can truly make a difference.” He continued by telling me, “after seeing how much of an impact you had on those children’s lives, it made me want to help too. I want to help those who need it most.” Bryant now plans to continue implementing different types of service work throughout his life, even past college.
On another note, I would like to bring to attention the two women who have inspired me to be giving of anything I have towards others: my Grandma and my Mom. For as long as I can remember, when I went out to eat at nice restaurants with my Grandma, she would always leave a very generous tip for the server, even if the service wasn’t that great. “You never know what the person who ate before us or the people who ate after us gave this person,” she would always tell me. For any waiter, the majority of income typically comes from tips the guest leave, so by always leaving a generous tip, you’re helping that person pay their bills, save for college, or covering gas money. This generous attitude can be seen in my Mom, too, but in a very different way–specifically, dedicating her time. My Mom is well known in our Church community for her acts of service to the Church and school; she, along with my Dad, recently received the Flame of Faith Award, which is given to those who have a huge impact on the Church and School through their commendable actions.
For as long as I can remember, everyone in my family always seemed to be helping out with some activity, and I credit this to how my parents raised my siblings and I. My mother believes the same:
[Larry and I] raised our children in manner that they would never shy away from lending a hand. When we learned of a need, especially in our parish or school communities, we volunteered and took the kids with us if possible. Volunteering is often a family event.”
Without the influence my family had on me, I do not think I would be the person, or giver, that I am today, and I certainly would not have influenced others around me. That’s the great part of generativity– the “torch passed down between generations,” as it is referred to in the book Why Good Things Happen to Good People– it allows for one person to create a ripple in the people around them, inspiring others to give what they can. Thanks to the lifestyle I was brought up in, giving comes as something natural to me, and I hope to pass on that behavior in all of its forms, not only to my future children, but to others around me in general as I stumble through the world.
Where did your giving inspiration come from? How have your thoughts on giving changed throughout your service or kindness project? Are there any final remarks you would like to share?
Post, Stephen Garrard, and Jill Neimark. Why Good Things Happen To Good People. New York: Broadway, 2007. Print.