Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sing for Your Supper

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!

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