Change For a Dollar: How We Can Impact the World with Very Little
So You Want to Change the World...
Every possession and every happiness is but lent by chance for an uncertain time, and may therefore be demanded back the next hour. ~Arthur Schopenhauer
What does it feel like to lose everything and have nothing left to look forward to? How does one handle not knowing if her/his parents will ever forgive her/his lifestyle choices? What does it feel like to go from making $100,000 a year to eating at the Family Kitchen because you can't afford groceries to feed your family? How does one handle not knowing where he /she will sleep tonight? What does it feel like to be out of prison but not have any chance at reintegrating in society? If these thoughts have been crossing your mind from time to time, but you don't know how to get started, this article is for you! Together, we can make a change in the world by taking small steps that make a big impact around us.
It All Begins with One Idea
“The Spirit has given to each of us a special way of serving others” (1 Corinthians 12:7, CEV). We each have talents that we can use to change the world. We each have passions that allow us to talk for hours about societal injustices, special projects we have taken on, or interests that excite us to limits unexplainable. In Cure for the Common Life, Max Lucado explains that we all have a “sweet spot” – the place where our life and our passions meet and cause us to live as we were destined. He describes it as “an uncommon call to a common life” or “a divine spark”. That area where you become the you that you were created to be.
Books to Help You Identify Your Passions
Identify Your Passions
Who do you want help? Where does your passion lie? Who moves you to tears when you think about their circumstances? Reflect upon these questions to determine which group you would like to help. By thinking about which groups move you the most, you will be able to target your search for an organization to help.
Michael Hyatt (Intentional Leadership blog) suggests the following three steps to finding you passions:
♥ Identify where joy and need collide. What do you consider the world’s greatest need and what do you want to do to meet that need?
♥ Write down your three favorite movies. What is the common thread between these movies?
♥ Ask others to identify “one thing” about you. Ask friends to tell you the “one thing” they notice most about you.
Max Lucado and Michael Hyatt all suggest talking with friends and family members closest to you if you run out of ideas or answers. Typically, those in whom we confide most can easily identify our passions. Whatever way you use to identify your passions, it is important you know what they are before you embark on volunteer work and helping others. This will better ensure you enjoy what you are doing so you will continue to do it and will be able to help others get excited.
Volunteer Match website - http://www.volunteermatch.org/
Christian Volunteering website - http://www.christianvolunteering.org/
United Way main website - http://www.liveunited.org
Volunteering In America website - http://www.volunteeringinamerica.gov/
Corporation for National & Community Service website - http://www.serve.gov/
Research Local Charities
One you have identified your passion, start researching local charities to see where you can start to volunteer. Most people begin volunteer work by helping out with a local charity before they embark on creating their own non-profit organization or try to meet the need on individually. By going to your local United Way website or office, or visiting VolunteerMatch.org, you can discover local agencies and the groups they service. You can also talk to your local Human Services agency or Town Hall to find out which agencies serve the population you are most interested in helping.
Another great resource is your local Philanthropic foundation or Non-Profit Association. These groups usually have names like [Your State] Association of Nonprofits or [Your State] Council for Philanthropy. They can provide the names of many charitable organizations you can then contact to find out how you can help them. These sites will also help you understand the statistics in your area for various groups and needs.
Understand that You May Be Able to Help More than One Group
I would like to make a note that not all individuals will be able to identify only one group they would like to help. If your passion is a hobby or talent that you have and you do not have a preference for who you help, your local United Way office will be your best friend through this process. Most offices have a list of needs and can tell you quickly which agencies need your specific help. For example, if you love to paint and want to help by painting rooms or murals, the United Way can match you with agencies in your area looking for these services. Ask to speak with the volunteer coordinator and they will be able to provide you with a pdf file that will take some time to sift through if you have more than one passion. You will see that requests from agencies vary widely and contain every possible talent you may have!
Examples of Ideas Put to Action
Whatever your idea is, nothing is too small. I know a group of individuals who love fashion, beauty, and photography. These ladies have been working together for three years to provide photo sessions for battered women who have made the brave step of leaving their abusers. These ladies shut down a local salon for the day, bring in the women for a total makeover complete with haircuts, hair styles, and makeup, and then bring in the children of the domestic violence victims so they can have a family photograph. For many abuse victims, this is a huge luxury and something they have not experienced due to physical and emotional bruises. For this particular event, the participation includes a jewelry salesperson who donates jewelry, several individuals who donate slightly used clothes for the families, a salon owner to provides the salon for the day, a limo service who donates the ride for the day, and the hair stylists, makeup artists, and photographers who provide their services. It was an idea that someone put to action!
Another family I know started a softball tournament in honor of their mother-in-law who died from breast cancer. Each summer, 12 teams participated in a double elimination tournament that lasted all day and raised money for Susan G. Komen for the Cure. This money was donated to the foundation upon completion of the family’s participation in the Race for the Cure. The tournament brought in sponsors such as the local casinos, national chain restaurants, Pepsi, and other small businesses. Everything was provided to the family free of charge and then sold to raise proceeds for the cause. Through a concession stand, raffle tickets, and entertainment for the kids, they have raised more than $50,000 since its inception.
It Continues with One Action
Now that you have identified your passion and hopefully a charity or group you would like to assist, it is time to put action to your thoughts. Pick up the phone and reach out to the charities you have identified. Ask them how you can help or if they have openings that fit your strengths. Like to plan parties? Get a list of needs they have and throw a fundraiser for the agency. Like to stay in the background? As them for things they need mailed, websites they need improved, or for other administrative tasks they need filled. Enjoy coaching? Find out how you can help with after school sports and clubs. This is about stopping the excuses and getting out there to start helping others.
Initiating Your Own Project
In One Month to Live, Kerry and Chris Shook challenge readers to initiate a local community service project. Why not? If you have an idea about which you are passionate, and you have identified your target group, why not step out and put action to your thoughts? Get a few friends together and head downtown to help low-income families weatherproof their homes. Motivate your colleagues to take up a food collection for the local food pantries. Start a softball tournament with your family and donate all proceeds to your favorite charity. Take your idea and advertise it! Go to the local newspapers and radio stations. Make it your status on Facebook. Tweet your idea and ask for support.
If you initiate your own project, you can do it by working with a local charity or by establishing your own non-profit organization. Talking with a lawyer or local Small Business Administration will help you assemble the necessary information and paperwork if you decide to establish a non-profit. If this is your first attempt at community service, I recommend find a charity with a similar vision and helping them with the understanding if your idea takes flight you have the right to establish your own non-profit that will carry on the work individually. Many non-profits will be open to this because it will help them raise funds or services while you are learning the ins and outs of the non-profit world.
Working With Established Charities
If you don’t have the energy or capacity to initiate a local community service event, look through the ideas the agencies have and see how you can fulfill them. Or if you need help figuring out which group of charities to begin with, consider the following:
♥ If you are moved to tears and can't stop talking about the ill effects of domestic violence on children, then go talk to your local Women's Shelter or Safe Homes program for abused and neglected children. Don't know who or where they are? Call your local Human Services agency and ask them to point you in the right direction.
♥ If you become angry that someone can serve our country for years and then wind up on the streets or that a mother and her small children can be evicted from their home after she is laid off from her job because her services are no longer "vital" to the company’s success, then volunteering with a local homeless shelter, food kitchen, or meal ministry may be the right place for you. Check out the yellow pages or call your local United Way to ask where you can begin. If you are in a bigger city, churches are a good place to begin because many sponsor Family Kitchens and Homeless Shelters.
♥ If you want to help previously convicted individuals reenter society and change the path of their lives, to provide them with another chance to make better decisions, then getting in touch with the local probation office and asking about reentry programs could be the right step. Maybe you own your business and would be willing to allow individuals in this circumstance to come work for you. Maybe you have a network of friends who have been looking to make a chance in the local unemployment rates and you realize this could be a way to do it.
♥ If your heart breaks when you think of teenagers who are kicked out of their homes by parents who disagree with their lifestyle choices, call your local Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Alliance and find out how you can help them. Larger cities are more likely to have shelters and services that assist these teens via support groups, life skills training, and housing services.
♥ If you giggle at the idea of children laughing or are moved every time you hear a child learn to read or write his name, contact your local childcare centers and see if you can read once a week or teach an art class or play a game with the children. Having a new face will be great for the children and having a chance to organize for other activities will thrill the teachers.
Helping When You Don’t Have Time to Volunteer
Any amount of service is more than they are currently receiving and more than you are providing. If you don’t have a lot of time in your week or month, look to start small. Drop flowers off at the local retirement home every Saturday or Sunday. Send cards with encouraging messages to a local homeless shelter and ask the Executive Director to have staff address them to the residents. Donate clothes to a local battered women’s shelter or books to a local daycare or school system. Every action counts when you are helping others.
It Grows Because of Your Excitement
You did it! You started helping. You feel great about yourself. Whatever action you took made you smile, made you feel better about you day, and make you walk a little bit lighter. Now what?
Share with others what you are doing. Tell them about your initiative and how they can help you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if someone has a talent you could use. When it comes to helping others, most people want to help and don’t know where to start. You could be the spark that lights that fire for someone else!
In Living the Life You Always Wanted, John Ortberg shares, “When I intercede for others, the circle of my concern becomes expanded just a little beyond myself. More than that, when I intercede for others, God is at work in ways I do not understand.” Whether you are a Christian, practice another religion, or do not believe in any religion, chances are you practice some kind of prayer or meditation. Take time out of your day to include those you are helping in this ritual. By taking a moment to think about them, you will continue to motivate yourself to help them. You will keep your excitement up and in turn, help others become more excited about the cause.
Pay it Forward
Does a friend have an idea and not know where to start? Help her or him find the right resources! Provide encouragement and tell friends about the cause so they can get involved. Everyone has different passions so it is quite possible that 12 friends can help 12 causes if they are encouraging one another and using their gifts and abilities to their best potential. Network with others so everyone who has an idea in your social circle and circle of influence can begin helping others. Start a club, a MeetUp group, or a Facebook group for those who would like to change the community. Begin a prayer group that meets regularly to pray about the needs in the community. Whatever you do, whatever you have time to encourage or initiate, help those who have not yet put action to their thoughts begin to step out and help the community.
Take it to the Town Hall and/ or State Capitol
If you find your community has more need than services to meet the need, take action by visiting or emailing your local mayor, senator, congressman, and lobbyists. Make your voice heard since those with the need cannot. Contact larger organizations who have funding and request they do something about the need by sending colleagues into the community or providing grants to local charities who can gain staffing with the extra funds. Suggest the needs to your local charities and ask how you help lobby for more support for them. With budget cuts from the state and federal government rising every year, local agencies are feeling the burden of helping others. Churches have started to step in and try to meet the needs, but not everyone wants the spiritual help and therefore people are left without services. One may argue that help is help, but someone are strong on their convictions. Social services agencies are supposed to be the main providers of such services with the church filling in with various ministries and services to meet the needs of their local communities and congregation. By raising our voices and making ourselves heard to those in office, maybe we can help keep funding for so many vital organizations…or in a perfect world, increase the funding.
Challenge To Every Reader: A Word from the Author
Thank you for taking time to read this hub. I hope you enjoyed it and that it inspires you to move. If you don't know where to begin, send me an email at EyesStraightAhead@gmail.com and I will connect you with your local resources. This is an issue close to my heart...for too many years I have dreamed of helping those who cry deep within the night and wish someone could hear them. We have all had moments where we just needed someone to be there for us. Whether it was to provide a hug, talk with us, help us find a new job, or assist us in uprooting our lives and get into a safer lifestyle or situation. Don't just read this hub and move on with your lives. Take a moment to visit VolunteerMatch.org and see where you can help today. Just because you don't have time to help in person doesn't mean you can't help by stuffing envelopes for annual appeals, providing advice for a board of directors, assisting with the development of a website, or one of the many administrative tasks most charities can't afford to hire out because of budget cuts and staffing shortages. Leave you mark on the world today by volunteering and answering those cries.
Hyatt, Michael. 2011. Intentional Leadership blog. http://michaelhyatt.com/find-your-passion-in-three-steps.html
Lucado, Max. 2005. Cure for the Common Life: Living in Your Sweet Spot. W Publishing Group; Nashville, TN.
Ortberg, John. 1997. The Life You’ve Always Wanted.Zondervan; Grand Rapids, MI.
Shook, Kerry & Chris. 2008. One Month to Live: Thirty Days to a No Regrets Life. WaterBrook Press; Colorado Springs, CO.