Rule 4: GET INVOLVED WITH YOUR COMMUNITY TO MAKE A POSITIVE IMPACT - NOT FOR SOCIAL CAPITAL!
Updated: Oct 11, 2019
The caveat at the end is of most importance when using this rule to create a fulfilling life. However, becoming involved within your community and neighborhood, volunteering or just trying to help when and where you can, is always a positive thing. So… even if you do not follow the last part of the rule, you will typically do more good than harm, which is another rule in and of itself.
When people do good things without expecting anything in return, not even kudos, it always feels better and is always more fulfilling. One reason for this is because people in general, tend to overvalue the work they do. If doing that work for an unspecified expectation of something in return, it will likely always be less than they were expecting (Even that pat on the back).
Another reason the last part of this rule is so important is that social gatherings can be a hotbed for gossip. If you are the type of person that likes to gossip, stop doing this immediately. Do not get involved with your community just to hear the juicy details on what’s happening with whom. That will do nothing to make your life more fulfilled and will most certainly earn you a reputation as someone with loose lips, who cannot be trusted.
When you volunteer your time, your words of encouragement and your help, without expecting anything in return, it always feels good. Not in a self-important way or self-aggrandizing way; if you feel either of those things, you should do a little soul searching. It also shouldn’t make you feel like a better person than those who didn’t help. Just feel good for what you have done to make society a little better place to live in.
It really doesn’t even have to be within your own neighborhood or immediate community, but they are great places to start. Typically, there are never enough resources available in those areas and your assistance is almost always useful and appreciated. The other main benefit of getting involved in your community is the social aspect. It can be a great way to meet new friends and form meaningful relationships with people who live near you. I stress meaningful relationships because not all relationships are meaningful. Some can be very toxic. Please don’t be the toxic one who joins in to, “Help” your community. That is pretty much the only way to turn this rule into a negative, doing more harm than good.
When I was a child, my father was in the fire service. One year, he and my mother got involved to help run the local Toys for Tots, or similar charity. It was specifically to help give children in local community living facilities (I don’t know if you can call them orphanages anymore) a little magic around Christmas. Something every child deserves to feel, whether around the holidays or not, religious or non-religious. I was probably 7 or 8 years old when Dad pulled into our driveway in a huge dump truck.
This was not just any ordinary dump truck. It was a dump truck filled with presents and toys, mainly wrapped in colorful paper or at minimum, lots of ribbon if oddly shaped. He told me to jump in the passenger seat and proceeded to take me with him all over town. We got the honor of playing Santa Claus and Santa’s helper, though not in any costumes, to disenfranchised, misfortunate and abused children, some without any families, all over what would one day be known as Silicon Valley.
As special as that whole day was for me, there was one moment that still stands out so much that I can feel it in my heart like it was yesterday. We were in a children’s facility and there was a boy, older than I, maybe around 10. There was also a giant stuffed bear. Now me, being a tough 7 or 8-year-old was no longer into stuffed animals. I liked toy guns, swords, dinosaurs, baseball, football and action figures. The moment this older boy saw this giant stuffed bear, his eyes lit up with excitement. He immediately ran to it, giving it the biggest bear hug I had ever seen. I then noticed tears running down his face, tears of joy knowing that his new stuffed friend would bring him comfort.
Even now, 30 years later, my eyes still well up when thinking about his reaction. That was the greatest lesson my parents ever taught me on the gift of giving. Of getting involved within your community to make a positive impact, without expecting anything in return. In doing so, I received more than anything I could have ever imagined. I still get involved at some capacity every year, even if it’s just buying a bunch of toys and donating them.
This is a lesson that I will teach my son. Not in the same way, as I don’t see myself having that same opportunity. However, in a couple of years, if not sooner, we will be making a trip to the local Children’s Hospital and bringing them a car full of new toys, making it an annual tradition.
If you have children, I highly recommend doing this at any time during the year. Many of the kids there are facing serious illness and pain, pain that no one, let alone an innocent child, should ever have to go through. Even if you can just bring in one new toy, you will help make a special kid smile when smiling was the last thing on their mind. You will also be teaching your own children important lessons about sympathy, empathy, and care for humanity, that will last a lifetime.