“For it is in giving that we receive.”
~ St. Francis of Assisi
I believe in the power of giving, the power of volunteering, of giving until you have nothing left, giving until it hurts (as Mother Theresa said)…by giving, I feel true joy and connection. I lose myself into another soul, into whatever is we are made of, into the interconnectedness of it all. I feel fulfilled.
It is incredible how much comes back when you give: doors open everywhere, you meet extraordinary people and things start happening all around you…
Giving also means erasing your own loneliness, your own need for connection and meaning in life.
“To ease another’s heartache is to forget one’s own.”
~ Abraham Lincoln
Not just when you are looking for a job, but especially if you are a newcomer (to a country, town, career path, social group, etc.), giving is the best way to open doors to yourself and to other people’s hearts.
A lot of career/employment coaching books (and counsellors) talk about the importance of “networking” and “volunteering” as strategies to get to know the work environment, make career connections and expand your options.
However, giving can be deceiving and even dangerous to those in the receiving end, depending on how you give and why.
The type of paying forward (and paying back) I’m talking here is a bit different. While I do believe that only connecting to people you enhance your opportunities of almost anything you plan to do (from starting a community garden, creating an energy descent action plan social group, starting a social enterprise as your own business, looking for a new job or trying to change your career path)…I believe connections have to be honest and real, otherwise they will fade out soon and you’ll end up alone.
What do you do when you make a new connection? Do you ask, do all the talk and run the show? Do you collect their business card or their phone/email to never ever look them up again?
And what do you do when somebody gives you a hand, a name; connect you with somebody else, or with some new idea or project?
Do you make room for people in your life? Do you stop and say thanks and give back?
Do you think about what others really need and that the aim of your giving should be making yourself redundant?
People are like you and me. We think we are rational, but we are not. We tend to pay more attention (and want to help and stretch ourselves out of our comfort zone) when we like the other. And the decision to “like” somebody is made not by your head, but by your heart.
People sometimes asks where they should volunteer or where/with whom and when to network.
My answer is always the same:
- Look for where they need you
- Look for where you’ll enjoy giving
- Look for where you will have an opportunity to learn and expand your horizons
- Look for opportunities where your time and energy will have a stronger impact
- Listen to people, care for people, be yourself and be the first to offer help in what they need
- Look for lasting connections, not for empty social-media-like “friends” or one-time business-card-exchange
- Respect people, they are also looking for something
- Keep track of who you meet and where and follow up with them, keep connected
- Strive for giving, making friends and enjoying the ride, not for what you’ll gain in return
A Note on types of “giving” and charity:
I volunteer at many organizations and for many causes. Most of them are grassroots initiatives, but some are connected to well-known institutions. I run or bike for fundraising, work extra hours maintaining their websites and blogs, spend hours preparing and distributing materials, run workshops, do presentations and meet with people outside my working hours. My own “paid job” is a job where giving is the main component.
But I hate “charity” and what it implies…and I am constantly checking with my own heart: “Am I giving because I need it, or because they need it?”
My own concept of giving is by empowering people: I like to start fires, to boost somebody’s morale, to develop tools so people can own them and develop them further; I don’t like “doing” things “for” people.
When you do “charitable” work, you are disempowering people, you are taking away their ability to do something for themselves and you are contributing to the cycle of scarcity they live in, and their sense of being “victims” and “powerless”.
I do believe in giving money to causes where I know who is behind them and what they do with the money…and money is required for things from logistics to buying resources, not necessarily to give the final product to those “in need”…
An excellent volunteer coordinator I had always said to us: “ask yourself why are you giving” “are you giving to feed your own need of being good or are you giving because you truly believe the receiver will benefit from your help?” “When giving, ask yourself what the receiver needs, not what you need”
In giving, there is a lot of vanity. Try to go beyond your own vanity and see whether what you are doing is helping to end the “wrong” situation (poverty, crisis, unemployment, illness, loneliness, etc)…or whether you are doing it to feel needed by others and to feed the scarcity and need cycle the receivers are locked into.
And you pay forward; don’t forget to also pay back: if somebody gave you something of value (from a job tip to a listening ear), think what they may need…and give it to them.
“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” ~ The Beatles