The Year of the Volunteer

http://www.motherearthliving.com/The-Good-Life/12-29-08.aspx

Well, as my last blog was just after Thanksgiving, I guess I missed my Christmas blog window (but check out editor-in-chief Robyn Griggs Lawrence's great presentation on buying green). So it's straight on to New Year's! Many of us might be making New Year's resolutions that concern the environment or our contributions to it: Reduce my energy bills; eat at least 50...80...100 percent organic; start a neighborhood recycling program.

I think my New Year's resolution this year will involve the idea of service that was so vital to Barack Obama's presidential campaign, an idea that is equally vital to his (and my) vision of a thriving nation. I believe in capitalism, but I also believe that in a land where the dollar reigns supreme, creating healthy, efficient and effective social programs is often left in the hands of the individual—in many cases, private endeavors, not public ones, can go farthest toward reducing or eliminating some of our nation's social problems.

Working for Natural Home is pretty great in the inspiration department. The January/February issue included the fantastic Dan Phillips and his awesome building program, The Phoenix Commotion, which builds no-debt, salvaged homes for low-income individuals. Our upcoming issue has an amazing story about a Boulder, Colorado, man who started a neighborhood CSA (community-supported agriculture) system in individual yards that now produces enough food to supply all volunteers, sell at a farmer's market and donate to the local food bank.

But the biggest lesson here is that helping out doesn't take much...and there are so many ways to give. I already participate (along with several of my coworkers) in the Big Brothers, Big Sisters "Everybody Wins" reading program, wherein adults are paired with kids who might have learning disabilities or social problems or simply need a bit more attention. Once a week, I visit my "little's" elementary school and spend my lunch hour reading with him. It's easy and fun and a great way to guarantee yourself at least one lunch hour spent outside the office each week. I've been doing the program for about four years now, and it was my first venture into volunteerism. It's become a regular and enjoyable part of my week—I don't even think of it as a chore. I did some additional volunteering during the presidential election and was amazed how great it could feel to dedicate a few extra hours a week to a cause I believe in. I didn't think there was room in my schedule for one more thing...until I just started doing it and realized I could make the time.

With the election over, I need to start researching new places and ways to dedicate some time and energy. I'll be researching to find something both fun and fulfilling, but give me your ideas! What programs do you all volunteer for, work with, etc.?? Please let me know!