Leadership comes in many different forms. Sometimes it is in the corporate world. Sometimes it is in the classroom. And sometimes it is the informal, unpaid environs of our communities.
Giving back is key...because service in one's community is akin to being a member of a community, caring about that community, being a good citizen, and most importantly, making the world a better place.
Perhaps it was the Mahatma Gandhi quote that inspired me the most growing up - "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others."
Or maybe it was this one - "You must be the change you wish to see in the world."
Beyond being a good citizen, supporting the community just feels good. Let's face it. There is something about doing worthwhile work as a volunteer, without expectation of anything in return, that adds more purpose to our life and benefits our community. When growing up as a volunteer in an organization in Santa Clara County called Youth Focus, Inc, a phrase by which we all lived was, "When you give to others, the good comes back tenfold."
So then what are you doing to give back? And who are you doing it with?
Last weekend, my ten year old twins and I spent a few hours with a project with Hands On Bay Area. As members, we can sign up for different community projects, many of which can involve children as long as they can be properly supervised. Message to all? Start them into the world of volunteerism and community service as early as you can. They, too, can the be the change we need to see in the world.
Our volunteer selection on that Saturday morning was Garden to Table, a project where we harvested fruits from the yards of residents in downtown San Jose, donating the fruit to local food banks. On that morning, the team of seven of us picked some 300 pounds of oranges, lemons and persimmons, all of which were donated to the Olinder Food Program, Five Wounds Church, and Sacred Heart Community Services.
With so many ways to serve our world, imagine our collective impact if each of us supported some type of project for just one hour a week - mentoring an at-risk youth, picking up trash on a local trail, donating old towels and blankets to an animal shelter, serving food at a shelter, delivering flowers from one's yard to a convalescent home....the possibilities are endless.
And maybe a good start, while you're contemplating a more formal commitment, is just smiling to a stranger as you walk down a street. Or saying hello to a homeless person who might otherwise make it through a day without any other human interaction.
The best give you can give - yourself.