31 May 2011

Thirty by thirty: service, #8-11

The list continues! I’ve already told you all the family-related items (in part 1 and part 2) on my 30 by 30 list. Next up are things I’d like to do that involve serving others. I am, unfortunately, not that great at donating time and talents to charity. My last great volunteer effort was, um, cough a year ago during the flood. You know, when everyone else in Nashville was also volunteering. I helped distribute meals with the Red Cross with my friend Lil' C and Mr. P (who took the photo):

So admitting that this is a step up is a little embarrassing. And the steps aren’t that big, as you’ll see. But better to start somewhere, right?

#8: Contribute at least $5000 to non-profits

Five thousand smackeroos! Wheee! That sounds like a lot!

Except it is so totally not. I’m a year and a half away from the deadline for this list, and despite the fact that Mr. P is an underpaid schoolteacher and I am a graduate student WITHOUT A REAL JOB, we’re fortunate that we will make a decent living in that time. I picked $5000 for the list without doing any calculations because it seems liked a nice, round, doable number, but divided among eighteen months that is only a few hundred a month. Plus we already contribute to our church monthly, so most of that is accounted for without making any changes.

But not all of it. To fulfill this goal I'll have to take the extra step and consider contributing more, but I left the big round (and extremely attainable) number on there just as a baseline. Right now I sort of tune out when someone mentions a fundraising opportunity, so having this on my list will help me to consider the good that my money can do elsewhere.

#9: Donate at least 100 items to charity

This is another one of those things-I’d-do-anyway-masquerading-as-charity, I’m afraid, because I freaking adore getting rid of stuff. LOVE IT. I find joy in empty spaces. I even have a large item or two in mind already, like the Couch of Marital Discord. Again, I picked 100 as a nice round number without really considering what it means, so we’ll see if this is easy or more challenging. I have a feeling, though, that I’ll surpass this number. Like the dollar amount above, the more important point is to give thoughtfully, so I’ll count up what I donate and see if I can donate more. I’ll keep you posted as my purging rampage progresses.

#10: Volunteer for Room at the Inn

Every winter our church, along with a lot of churches in the metro area, runs a program to house about thirty homeless men or women for an evening. It involves preparing a hot meal, enjoying the meal with the guests (i.e. sitting at the table and chatting), preparing a pallet with linens, escorting them to the showers and smoke breaks, distributing warm items of clothing donated to the program, staying watch over the guests throughout the evening, and cleaning up in the morning. It’s an excellent program that does a lot of good. I happen to know a lot about it because I was signed up to participate when I was in the process of joining the church.

I still am afraid to sign up myself. Too selfish.

Despite having a reasonably enjoyable experience when I joined the men a few years ago, I am reluctant to volunteer again, for myself, instead of someone telling me when to show up. It’s just so far out of my comfort zone. And I’m rather ashamed of that, since I was the kid who asked my mom why we couldn’t just have a homeless person come live with us. Um, wouldn’t that solve the whole homeless crisis? DUH, MOM. I don’t know if you have noticed but the guest room bed is CURRENTLY UNOCCUPIED.

So I will sign up to participate this winter. On my own!

#11: Participate in at least one community project

People, I suck at volunteering. I don’t know why, I was “brought up right” as the Southerners say. When I was homeschooled my mom and I worked at the local Goodwill-ish charity store once a week organizing the donations, and I spent another day or two a week volunteering at the library shelving books. In college I had a steady stream of community service activities thanks to the various professional societies I had joined. But when it comes to being like, “Hey, you know what I think I’ll do this Saturday? Volunteer!” I am one big fat fail.

There is even an excellent community resource available to me to tackle this item, Hands On Nashville. It’s the organization that sent us to work for the Red Cross when my friends and I wanted to help out after the Nashville flood. There are literally dozens of opportunities posted there at any given time, and I have literally zero excuses for not giving at least one of them a try. I can’t be sure that the next city we live in will have such a resource, so I should try to tackle this one while we’re in Nashville, but if I don’t then perhaps it would be a good way to learn the ropes of whatever new city we’re in.

So that’s how I plan to become a little more generous and a little less selfish as I approach thirty. If you can take me being even more introspective, next up are my personal development goals!