“Live below your means so that you can be a blessing to someone else.” This, among other short quotes epitomizing selflessness often floated from my mother’s lips when I was a little girl. Growing up, service to others was a normal part of life. Wednesdays were spent at soup kitchen feeding the homeless.
For about five summers straight, I donated my time as a camp counselor to physically and/or mentally challenged children. And then there were those Sundays where our 20 minute ride home from church was accompanied by an extra because he or she needed a temporary home or needed extra cash, therefore did some around-the-house work for my mother. I carried these experiences and more with me when I left for college.
No matter how busy I got, I found time to aid others. Lately, though, my good deeds don’t extend far beyond a prayer for mankind before bed and giving spare dollars to the homeless in New York Penn Station. I keep telling myself that I’m going to do better, but action never follows my words. So self-absorbed, I’ve been investing all my time and energy into career and weekend “me time.”
After Hurricane Sandy, images of flooded homes and cars filled my Twitter Timeline. Stories of missing children and found bodies that didn’t survive the storm made their way to the news. And still, somehow, I found the nerve to complain about my loss of Internet. The fact that I had running water, a stocked refrigerator and cozy heat didn’t seem to matter much because my Internet access was down and it would inconveniently put me behind in work.
Searching for a Wi-Fi spot in the area to no avail, my irritation was heightened. After about five minutes into my pity party, I realized how minor my “dilemma” was, and I felt guilty for even having the audacity to complain. Though it had been happening gradually, I noticed for the first time that I was losing sight of me and the principles instilled in me.
I was disappointed in myself and the fact that I couldn’t remember the last time I actually volunteered. What was once such a normal part of my life was now less than an afterthought in my agenda. And the ironic thing about it is that the career I’m so engulfed in is supposed to be the first step to achieving my ultimate goal of starting a non-profit organization.
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Sometimes we get so caught up in our own happenings, that we get tunnel vision and tune out any and everything that doesn’t directly jeopardize our well-being. Between work, school, kids and the bajillion other things we’re juggling, it’s easy to forget that our lives are merely a speck in the world and there are major issues that need to be addressed. While I’m devastated by the ferocious impacts of Sandy, I’m grateful for the forced wake-up call. I don’t want to be the one so wound up in “me, me, me”, that I never make time to fulfill my human responsibility to serve.
Of the social ills plaguing the world, former Editor-In-Chief of ESSENCE Susan L. Taylor once said, “It’s not your fault, but it is your responsibility.” And she’s right. Hardly ever are the misfortunes of the world a direct fault of our own. But it still doesn’t take away from the fact that they exist and need to be resolved.
With that in mind, I urge you to get involved in matters past your own. And don’t make it a rare occurrence, but incorporate service into your lifestyle. It doesn’t take much—just a little selflessness and time. I spoke to a woman about volunteering to alleviate the detriments of Hurricane Sandy and I’m excited to begin this weekend. It’s the first step of many to come in a long time to start giving back. It doesn’t have to be via Hurricane Sandy, but how will you give back?
Were you impacted by Hurricane Sandy? Has a major disaster or life-altering experience ever forced you to confront your shortcomings? What things do you do regularly to help others? Share your story with #TeamBeautiful.
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