Living in our free society has many perks and benefits. All too often we never really appreciate how good we have it until we face that expected event that could change ones life dramatically. Be it a health scare, a simple accident at home, a sudden job disruption or a family/personal crisis or change. It can happen to any of us, at any time or at any level of life.
This wonderful and free society also comes with certain responsibilities; some mandatory like taxes, others are optional such as volunteering or contributing financially. Without individuals stepping forward to accept these “optional” responsibilities our society would surely fail. Like any organization or group you belong to “dues” must be paid and sacrifices made for the good of the whole.
In recent weeks the news has been full of heroic deeds and humanitarian tasks like guardsman and soldiers returning from the front protecting the freedoms we all enjoy; individuals donating organs so that another may enjoy a fuller life; volunteer firemen risking their lives and safety to enter into burning buildings to save lives; volunteers devoting countless hours to shelter and feed homeless individuals and even pets; toys being donated to brighten a child’s Christmas; volunteers standing out in the cold to ring bells at the red kettles collecting funds for those less fortunate and even children sending funds to children in other countries ravaged by storms and natural disasters.
No one forces us to perform those tasks. We do them because we know they are important things that must be done. Some among us accept those responsibilities cheerfully and with enthusiasm, devoting their life to good deeds whenever the need arises. Others accept them as part of life and do the best they can to contribute what they can and yet others skirt bye, living off this wonderful society taking as much as they can and putting back little.
None of us are in a position to do it all, but each of us in our own way needs to participate in the optional responsibilities of society. The difference between those who do and those who do not accept these added responsibilities can clearly be seen on their faces. The joy of helping someone other than yourself, is a gift that can’t be replicated. Folks going through their own difficult times can often be lifted in spirit by focusing their attention on others. The good deeds we do or, dues we pay, sooner or later circle back around making this a better community, country and world that we all must share.
The recent passing of Nelson Mandela shows the true skill of a human willing to give and place personal needs below those of many others. After being jailed 27 years for his life long battle against apartheid and injustice in South Africa, instead of becoming a bitter man looking for revenge, he understood that his nation needed to be healed. People of all skin color could begin addressing the problems in society by putting their differences aside and working together for a true democratic state. Knowing what needs to be done and having the courage to buck political and social trends is what sets Mandela apart.
Mandela had the rare ability that few leaders have to affect true change. I’m not suggesting that any of us can live up to his accomplishments but each of us have the ability to do our small part to make an impact in our communities. Sure times are tough and there is never enough money to satisfy all your needs. But look around. How much better do you still have it than others around you? How many times in life did someone, maybe even a stranger, extend a helping hand or an encouraging word when you needed it most? None of us ever know what the future holds. Mandela could have never imagined when he was thrown into jail in 1964 that someday he would be president of his country and be so beloved around the world for his efforts.
I urge you to do your part. If you’re unsure where to start, or even if you are already active in volunteering your time and making financial contributions, may I suggest a contribution to the United Way, your local hospital, church, shelter or one of the many excellent organizations serving the many needs throughout our communities. Drop that spare change in the Red Kettles around town or volunteer some time helping out in an organization you may know little about. There is always room for another set of helping hands. It won’t be easy at first, but you’ll be pleased with the outcome.
As we approach the holiday season make the pledge to do more this coming year than you’ve done in the past. Volunteer your time, dig a little deeper when making that contribution and do it with a smile on your face and joy in your heart. It is that type of effort made by millions around this country and around the world that provides true hope for mankind and sooner or later will aid in creating a world at peace and harmony.
Dan Alexander is associate publisher of New Market Press and publisher and CEO of Denton Publications. He may be reached at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.