As a 29-year-old, it’s great to know there is still a place where being miscalculated as a high school student is possible. Last week, I volunteered at the Atlanta Food Bank and I unexpectedly learned what it’s like to live in the Middle East. It turned out my day volunteering would parallel a fellow volunteer’s journey to this region.
Before I share how the connection happened, let me rewind.
I recently decided to walk away
from our marketing company. As a part of this transition, I sought community and mentoring to help guide me through this transition.
Over the years, I have stayed connected with Jeff Hilimire
. Jeff Hilimire is the owner of a company called DragonArmy
, and he was someone who came to mind as I sought council. Well it seems, there are others who see Jeff as an approachable person and so he came up with a neat idea called ‘Pay it Forward
’. The idea being, when I agreed to meet with Jeff, I committed to volunteer at least one hour of my time to help others. In addition, I agreed to write about my experience.
With the intent to go outside of my comfort zone, I asked Jeff if he would recommend a place I could serve. He mentioned the Atlanta Community Food Bank
had a need for volunteers and he recommended I serve there. After our time together, I went online and signed up to volunteer in the program called ‘Kids In Need
Kid’s in Need is a program of the Atlanta Community Food Bank, and they aim to provide a free store for educators to supply their classrooms with the tools for academic success. My volunteer position was to help load the supplies received by the teachers into their vehicles.
The day came and I drove down there about an hour early. By being early, it allowed me time to talk with the staff, learn about their mission and fill out paperwork. It also opened up opportunities for me to help and engage with the volunteers while we waited for the teachers to arrive.
One such opportunity was talking with a woman who, I came to find out, worked with the United States Government over the past 6 years. While working, she spent most of her time in Dubai and Iraq. With limited experience out of America, I decided to take this opportunity to learn. I proceeded to ask her about her perspective after being oversees.
I first asked her what it was like returning to the states and what her perspective of our country was. She proceeded to share how much she realized we, in America, take for granted. Being incubated in our country, there are so many little things in life we have access to that most of the world does not. She also shared how in America, we are busy and we work at a break neck pace. In these other areas of the world, they take their time and focus more on what is in front of them.
This was compelling, but I wanted to learn the other side of the coin. I flipped the question around to expand my perspective and I proceeded to ask her what does America value compared to this region. Her first response was our value for family. In America, we value and cherish family in a way they do not. In those parts of the country, she experienced how they would abandon or sell a family member with little or no hesitation. I asked her about the difference between the two worlds when it comes to generosity. She said we are much more generous than what she experienced from these areas of the world. We give, help the poor and they tend to do the opposite.
It was humbling to learn how much we take for granted and how rushed we are in our culture. It was also reassuring to know our value for family, generosity and helping others was a strong point in our culture. As she shared, she said there was no way for us to understand and feel what it was like without experiencing it for ourselves.
This made me think about what I was doing volunteering with Kids In Need. Before Jeff connected me with the Atlanta Food Bank, I had a limited understanding of the need our city had in this area. People in our community need help to survive, and teachers need materials and supplies to teach their students. The need is big, and being in this season of transition allowed me to slow down to such a level I could see what was going on around me.
As I loaded the cars, I asked teachers their names, what they taught and why they taught. I met teachers from all grades and subjects as I loaded cars with school supplies. I was contributing to the bigger picture. My commitment to volunteer was a profound analogy of how busy my life had gotten, and how little I appreciated the little things in life. By volunteering, it helped me to cherish my commitment to family, generosity and helping others.
I challenge you, go outside your comfort zone and consider volunteering. Find an organization like the Atlanta Community Food Bank
and try it out. It just might change you.