Whether you volunteer in your local schools or are vocal in local government, every once in a while it's worth it to step back and review your community involvement. What are you doing to contribute to your community? And are you doing it in the most constructive way for yourself, your family and your community?
Sure, there are times in all of our lives when we get a pass on the community involvement thing, but the sense of community so many of us cherish doesn't happen without the efforts of people like you. It takes each and every one of us to make a community. Involvements ebb and flow with the cycles of our lives, and communities grow and change with the contributions of so many. What are your contributions?
Are you someone who ducks her head low when the PTA president asks for volunteers? Do you prefer to hide in your house? Is Caller ID your best friend? It might be time to get out there a little more.
You don't have to assume responsibility for a major volunteer project, but helping out in even small ways -- making phone calls for an hour for the local thrift store or feeding the animals one day a week at the animal shelter -- gets you out into the community more, expands your horizons and absolutely contributes to that sense of community you and your neighbors so cherish.
Alternately, are you too involved? Do you have so many things on your plate that your community involvement rivals the heads of major philanthropic entities?
There is such a thing as being too involved. When every project becomes your project and you take on projects because you like to have control, it's time to step back. Community is not about control -- it's about working together for the common good.
No matter how you are involved in your community, is your involvement showing your strengths? Sure, there are the "typical" ways to be involved (PTA, church and charities), but what if your real strength is, say, financial planning? Will being the PTA treasurer be the right venue to give it your best? Maybe or maybe not, but it could be worth some brainstorming with the director of the local senior center instead. Your best (and most enjoyable) contribution to the community could be helping some seniors stay in their family homes just a bit longer.
No matter what and how you are involved in your community, your family must come first. Yes, an individual project may take a huge short-term effort, but when you are so involved on behalf of your kids that you really don't know your kids….take a step back. Volunteering and community involvement is wonderful and so many of our communities couldn't survive without it, but when you choose competing for the volunteer of the year award instead of seeing your daughter in a key track competition, you need to find a better balance.
Community is one of those intangibles that make our life better. Even if we don't think about it very often, our involvement has a direct impact on lives -- yours, your children's and many others. Reflecting on your involvement and giving your best to community only makes it better.
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