In an age where the global economic downturn has come to affect every corner of our lives, it is easy to see the need to help others - and ourselves. No one is safe from the reach of economic collapse on a worldwide scale, every one of us is touched by the magnitude of the situation. Indeed, every one of us is part of a situation of epic proportions that has yet to fully unfold.
With this understood, there is the temptation to want to give without requiring anything in return. At a recent food and clothing giveaway I was asked people had to do to receive items. I replied, "Nothing." I was then asked what people could do if they wanted to. I pointed out a few things and before I knew it people were volunteering to help with the event - in addition to getting a few pieces of clothing and some much needed food. Instantly clients began to pitch in.
Soon clients and volunteers were working side-by-side to serve an even greater number of people. At that moment I realized the utility of enlisting our clients to volunteer. It had nothing to do with leveraging available resources either, it simply had to do with preserving self-dignity. The people who were there to receive items were the same people who were working four months ago. Their self-esteem used to rest in part on putting in a long day's work and getting paid for it. With the work gone, part of the self-esteem went along with it. This event gave these hard working folks a way to get some much needed help and to give back at the same time.
I've talked to a number of nonprofits since the food and clothing giveaway. Each one is now implementing opportunities - not requirements - for people to give back. The response has been overwhelming and the effect on clients' self-esteem has been amazing. Keeping up hope while looking for a job is easier when remind ourselves we can sing for our supper - and what a sweet song it is!