[Originally published in Woodbury Bulletin on 4/4/2007]
When it comes to giving, I think Americans are the best.
People here give their treasures, time, and talents for causes and organizations they believe in.
They give money to the poor and needy. They volunteer their time and talents for charitable and non-profit organizations. Even at death, many families ask donations to be made to charitable and non-profit organizations.
I think this generous giving and volunteer spirit is deeply rooted in the religious beliefs and in the American tradition. It permeates the society and makes America the greatest country in the world.
In my own small circle of life, I can see countless people volunteer regularly. Many parents volunteer every week at my kids’ school. I see people volunteer every week in my church teaching Sunday school. I am deeply thankful for all their efforts and sacrifices.
I have to admit being a giver and volunteer is not natural to me. I didn’t grow up in this kind of tradition and environment. I only showed up in my kids’ classrooms a few times to do a short presentation or to help at a party.
When my daughter asked me: “Mom, can you come with me on our fieldtrip?” and with my usual response, “No, I can’t. I have to go to work,” I felt kind of guilty.
Work and busyness do get in the way of finding time to do things for other people. However, becoming a volunteer and giving back to the community has got on my radar screen. I have started to learn to be a giver and a volunteer.
Last Saturday I volunteered at the Liberty Ridge School Carnival. I couldn’t have done so without the generous help of a friend.
Normally I have to take my kids to a Chinese school in St. Paul on Saturday. But a friend has been giving them rides lately. This frees up my Saturday afternoons. I took this opportunity and for the first time, signed up for volunteer at this annual school carnival on March 24.
I was just one of many who volunteered on the date of carnival to sell tickets, run games and activities, serve refreshments, and to clean up.
The event was a big success, thanks to all the donations and volunteers by the students, parents, teachers and local businesses.
Each classroom had a theme basket composed of items donated by the families in the classroom. Families either donated items or cash to purchase items for the theme basket.
Some local businesses donated products or offered gift certificates for services for the silent auction. There were 170 items listed for raffle and silent auction.
Families donated cakes and treats for the cakewalk and 2 liter bottles of soda for the pop toss game. There were more than enough supplies to last for the three hour long carnival. The amount of donations received and the generosity of our community were incredible.
Approximately two hundreds of people volunteered in so many different ways to make the carnival possible and fun for our children.
Even though I didn’t do much work in comparison to all those parents who spent countless hours and efforts in organizing this annual event, still I felt I was part of the volunteer community and did a very small contribution. This made me feel good.
People who volunteer a lot often say, they get more back than they give. I think this is true.
I remember my first volunteer effort for the library at the used book sale last year. After a couple of hours, I went home not only with a good feeling in my heart, but also with some good books in my hand. I also felt I got more back than I gave of my time and effort.
I love libraries and books. I certainly will volunteer for the book sale again this year.
Just in the last 10 months, I have personally benefited greatly from the volunteer efforts of two individuals from the Woodbury United Methodist Church. Jill Hillyer offered a book study group on creativity and spirituality. Nancy Weingartner taught an introductory Yoga class. They both shared their talents with other people in the community. They served as examples for me. And they made me think how I can volunteer to give back to the community.
What unique talents do I have that I can share with others? Lately I have been thinking about this question. One day I woke up with an idea. With the increased interest in China and learning Chinese, I can help start a China club to give interested people a chance to get together to learn more about China from each others and to share their experiences. So far this is just an idea.
Whatever will happen to the idea, I don’t know. But I know for sure, becoming a volunteer and giving back to the community has already got into my consciousness. And as I become more interested in volunteering, I am also sure I will find more opportunities to do so. Hopefully I will get better as well.