Friday, November 27, 2009

On Volunteering


After some fits and starts I've decided to start volunteering at a food bank on a weekly basis. I'm incredibly excited about this. The truth is that I have way too much time on my hands and this feels like a great way to spend my spare time. I'm also mindful that this could be the beginning of something much more meaningful in my life.

It's not like I've never volunteered before. I've been known to lend a hand at soup kitchens every now and then, particularly around the holidays. But hey, the number of hot chicks whom I've met over the years at these places always seemed to justify my participation. I've also done my share of pro-bono work as an attorney, though I probably was more focused on meeting the pro-bono hour requirement my firm demanded in order to “qualify” for a bonus.

The bottom line is that after close to 2 years of intensely personal, sometimes painful, changes in my personal and emotional life I'm ready to move on to something more essential. This, I think, is the inevitable result of embracing simple living.

Emerging from the harsh glare of materialism, consumerism and never-ending excess, my first instinct was to focus on the physical. Even as all the de-cluttering, the selling, and the donating progressed I began to confront a much more internal and much more personal journey, one that I suspect (hope?) will continue for the rest of my days. It is now, in the mist of this journey, that certain things have become too hard and too clear to ignore:

*I do not live in an island. What I do and what I DON'T do affects everyone around me.
*I am a person because I am defined by how others are born and how they live, work, survive, and die.
*Most importantly, this journey that I am on, a journey that has brought so much joy, beauty and serenity to my life...this journey cannot be made alone.

And so, I choose to volunteer. Not so much because “I want to help.” No. It's too early to say that. I want to volunteer because I recognize that I can understand more about myself and my relationship to the rest of the human race by giving my time and labor to others.

It is still a rather selfish endeavor, but I am hoping that greater empathy and understanding will follow.

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