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WHAT'S REALLY IMPORTANT
chapter 16
Giving Back
 

You are put on this planet to do more than just look after yourself and your immediate family. Each of us has a responsibility to make a positive difference in the lives of less fortunate individuals and to contribute in whatever way we can to the well-being of our communities and the environment around us.
Think of your life in this world as a bank account. You cannot just keep making withdrawals for your own benefit without putting something positive back in for the benefit of others. Donating to charities and non-profit organizations is a start. But, what is even better is getting personally involved as a volunteer to help make your community and the world a better place.
It is never too early to become a volunteer for a charitable community organization that needs your assistance. Make every effort to take the time to do so. Many individuals start volunteering when they are still attending college or university.
There are many needy people and families struggling to survive and cope with countless difficulties and problems. Find a way to get personally involved as a volunteer in helping to make a difference in their lives, even if it is for only one hour a week. My father, an extremely successful businessman, believed that executives in business have an obligation to spend 20% of their time on charitable “work” and community activities.
As an alternative to volunteering for social service groups, consider donating some of your time to non-profit organizations that enrich the cultural life of your community, help people learn to read and write, or assist children to enjoy sports. There are countless worthwhile causes where you can serve as a volunteer. If you see a serious need in your community or elsewhere in the world that is not being met, seek out individuals who share your concern and work together to organize an appropriate way to deal with it.
Everyone has a tendency to take the quality of the natural environment around us for granted. We assume, for example, that the purity of the air we breathe or the water we drink is someone else’s responsibility. The reality is that the “health” of the earth’s ecosystem is extremely fragile, yet it is being degraded daily by countless human actions throughout the world.
Take an active interest in environmental matters. Become well-informed about what can be done to reduce pollution and ensure the continued regeneration of wildlife and plant species. Reduce your energy and water consumption. Recycle. Encourage your employer to be environmentally responsible. Make a habit of picking up at least one piece of litter every day of your life.
All of us have a strong vested interest in ensuring the vitality and responsiveness of our local, regional and national governments. The two sayings, “you get the government you deserve” and “politics is too important to leave it to the politicians”, are absolutely correct. Get involved as a volunteer in a political campaign for a candidate you admire. Familiarize yourself with the key political issues. Discuss them with your friends and family. Volunteer to serve at an election polling station. Rather than just complain about politicians, take some active responsibility for the health of your country’s political system. At a minimum, always vote in elections. It is a citizen’s duty to do so.
Just because you pay taxes does not mean that you are absolved from having to donate financially or volunteer your time to worthwhile endeavors. Our communities would break down if we relied solely on government to address all social, cultural and environmental needs. You cannot be a Citizen of the World without making an effort to do your share of “giving back”. The satisfaction you gain from doing so will beat almost anything else you do.
Finally, each of us should resolve to set an example as a believer in the importance of having a civil society. Through our daily action and conduct, we need to reaffirm those values that are the foundation of a healthy and vital community, nation and world. These are mutual respect, compassion, honesty, decency, tolerance, an open mind, humor, and a sense of shared responsibility to assist others less fortunate than ourselves when the opportunity arises to do so. This is what it means to be a true Citizen of the World.
My approach to engaging in supporting non-profit organizations as a volunteer is to go narrow and deep. Rather than getting involved superficially in a large number of such groups, I prefer to devote serious attention and time to several organizations where I can help make a difference to their effectiveness. Two examples are The Salvation Army and a youth mentoring organization.
From 1975 to 2007, I was actively involved with The Salvation Army, serving on two of its boards, chairing its local Red Shield Campaign to raise donations, and heading up a major capital drive to fund the construction of a large building for looking after homeless individuals and families. I am tremendously impressed with the selfless way that the members of The Salvation Army help the needy throughout the world. Having an opportunity to support their work gave me great pleasure.
In addition, since 1999 I have been active with a non-profit organization that arranges for adult volunteer mentors to spend one hour a week meeting one-on-one with students who are at risk of dropping out of school. I have mentored eight students, including ones originally from Afghanistan, China, Kazakhstan and Pakistan. This has been a wonderful experience for me. For six years, I also served as the chair of this group’s board of directors until it merged with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Calgary and Area in 2008 and I joined its board of directors. My wife is also active in serving on the boards of non-profit organizations and my daughter Serena serves as a mentor to a student in elementary school.
 

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