Huffpost Denver
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Johanna Garton Headshot

Giving Back Without Waiting for the Ask

Posted: Updated:
Print Article

As we sat listening to the car radio, the news of these bumpy times launched us into conversation. I wondered aloud what further sacrifices we may have to make for the good of the whole. On its face, our neighborhood in northwest Denver doesn't appear to be suffering, with its still-bustling coffee houses and restaurants. But beneath the surface I knew there was more to the story. I saw the boarded-up churches, and knew that there were families at our son's elementary school for whom Friday meant the last day of hot meals for their kids until Monday when school rolled around again and the free breakfast and lunch programs kicked in.

I was already maxed out, volunteering at our elementary school, serving on three boards and donating consulting work to local nonprofits with tight budgets. "So what do you think you can be doing," I casually asked my husband. Expecting a response about making a donation to a homeless shelter or offering to help a local nonprofit with computer problems, I was shocked to hear, "Well, I figured since you were doing so much, that just about covered it for both of us."

As I tried to get deeper into what I saw as an unacceptable response, it soon became clear that my husband's main objection was important: pleas for help are just too generic. In fact, that is the case for most people. I know from experience that an overwhelming percentage of people, when asked by a friend or colleague to give time or money, will step up to the plate. But what about those people who are never asked? In my experience, if they are not asked, they will not act.

I have seen our Colorado nonprofit community struggle, and watched as organizations I respect close their doors. Most of us have plenty to give and serving in the community does not need to be a long-term commitment, doesn't need to be organized through an agency, nor does it need to entail leaving your home. So for those waiting for the call to action, I suggest taking a more proactive approach. Visit a local nursing home and read to the seniors with your children, pick up trash in one of Denver's parks or pull together a frozen turkey and canned goods to drop off at a local food pantry.

The possibilities are endless, and so, too, are the resources. For links to volunteer opportunities around the state, a good place to start is the Governor's Commission on Community Service The Commission serves as Colorado's leader in promoting civic engagement, volunteerism and community service, and provides links to local service delivery programs around the state. Another resource soon to appear comes with the recent passage of the Kennedy Serve America Act. This legislation will increase the numbers of AmeriCorps members in all corners of our state. Are you a candidate? Lastly, right on the Huffington Post main page is a link to All For Good, a searchable database of local volunteer opportunities.

I remember being a new mother and feeling at the end of the day that I had accomplished nothing. Some days I barely managed a shower, and most days I didn't have time to watch the news or engage in a real adult conversation. Someone told me that in those moments, I should remember that my job that day was to raise my child, and surely in doing so I had taught him a lesson or two in the process. These words have kept me going long past those early parenting days, and now I hope to go one better than that. For perhaps in teaching our children the lesson of giving, we can all find some small way to help others in the process.