Service: Giving Back, Traveling, Opening Up

by Edward Henkler on July 23, 2013

What have you done to give back?  I believe that everyone should engage in a period of service at some point in their life.  Military service is certainly an option but myriad alternatives abound.  Our younger daughter is in a two year fellowship in which she will learn about sustainable, locally sourced food systems in the first year.  Then, in year two, she will be embedded in a business to share the lessons she’s learned.  Our older daughter spent two years in Senegal with the Peace Corps, providing preventive health education.  These experiences remind you that there’s a bigger world out there and also awaken a spirit of altruism.

I was reminded of this theme by an article in the July 15th Philadelphia Inquirer.  Andrew Foersthoefel walked across America last year.  Perhaps there was less of a giving-back element but he spent a lot of time listening and interviewing the people he met.  He’s writing a book based on those adventures and has come to realize that in spite of the often negative news, everyday people have a positive and giving spirit.  Many people are willing to give a stranger assistance and sometimes it is as simple as showing genuine interest in their lives….slowing down and listening.  His walkabout will influence his life in a way that a summer job at a coffee shop never could.

 Walking across America; Philadelphia Inquirer; 15-Jul-13

Some people never leave their home state but for those who venture beyond, they realize that people around the country and world are more alike than different.  They care about similar things and want the best for their family, friends, and neighbors.  When we focus on similarities rather than differences, enormous potential arises.  There are some big challenges in the world – whether it’s my passion for preventing blindness and realizing the unrealized potential of individuals who are differently-abled or solving even bigger problems of poverty, hunger, and homelessness.  If we pull together, we can “move the needle”.

What have you done to expand your horizons?  Does your company encourage you to give back?  If they do encourage altruism, does that increase your allegiance?

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