Saturday, June 22, 2013

Plug In

In my 20s and early 30s my life revolved around raising kids, working full time, and keeping my household running as smoothly as possible. As the kids grew and became social and active, it was all I could do to keep up with them while handling the endless other chores and responsibilities that come with being a working mom. Now, in my 40s, I’m in a different stage of life. My responsibilities have changed a bit, and I have matured emotionally, socially and professionally. That doesn’t necessarily mean I have more time available, but the life-stage change has allowed me to shift some priorities.

You’ve heard the phrase, “It takes a village…” That phrase is usually used in reference to raising a child. It comes to mind for me, though, when I think about my community in general. Our city is our community, as is our school, our church, our neighborhood, and even our work-place. We each have places and roles in our communities. We thrive in our communities. We have much because of our communities. In return, we each have a responsibility to contribute to those communities.

I didn’t think of it like that during those years when I was raising young children. I was overwhelmed with just keeping my own family and life afloat; I didn’t feel like I had room in my life to get involved with helping others. After all, along with working, I spent time each week in my kids’ classrooms helping teachers handle the variety of learning and behavior levels, until my kids got old enough to not want me there anymore. Then I joined the PTO so I could stay involved and help out behind the scenes. As the kids grew and became more active in sports and extra-curricular
activities, I took different positions with the teams' parent committees in order to stay close and involved in their lives. So, you see, I didn’t have time for volunteering in the community. Or so I thought…

Come to think of it now, volunteering in the community is exactly what I was doing. Even though in my mind, it was selfish – I wanted to stay close to my kids for as long as possible – the activities I chose were in fact contributing to my community. Other children and their families were benefiting from what I was doing, and I built fun relationships with other families in the process.

Now that I’m in this “more mature” phase of my life, I recognize the importance of giving back to the communities I live and work in. Giving back isn’t just a responsibility, it’s therapeutic. When I was a single mom for about five years. I discovered Westwinds, my church. The place and the people came into my life when I needed them most. I was feeling a bit lost, and I needed another type of family. They took me in and put me to work. I offered the skills I had to help with things like office tasks, making connections and editing their weekly newsletters and emails. Again, I was volunteering and helping others, but for me, it served to bring me some peace.

Now, I’m very happily married and helping to raise two young stepchildren. My role as a step-mom is different than that as a mom to Jake and Shelby. Katie and Collin already have two very involved parents. So now I'm blessed to have an opportunity to have a positive influence on Katie and Collin’s lives and support them as they grow and learn and follow their dreams. Once again, those are things that are my responsibilities, but they bring me great joy and keep me feeling young.

As far as giving back to my communities now, I try to stay “plugged in” through continuing to volunteer at Westwinds and serving on a couple of business group committees. As my involvement in all four of my kids’ lives evolves and priorities shift, I hope to seek out and get involved with organizations that I feel I can be of service to. It’s the right thing to do, and it feels so good to do it.

Some ideas I can already think of that I’d like to tackle someday are:

  • Being a “big sister” for the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization
  • Spending an hour or two a week tutoring in reading at elementary schools
  • Spending an hour or two a week keeping an elderly person company
  • Using my marketing skills to bring awareness to a cause I believe in
  • Serve food to the homeless on Thanksgiving day
If you can think of more, I’d love it if you add to my list in the comments section below.

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