What I Learned From Giving Back-- by Ahaji Schreffler
What I've Learned from Giving Back
“Everybody can be great… because everybody can serve… You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love, and you can be that servant.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
For many years, the idea of “giving back” felt abstract to me, like a riddle I hadn’t cracked the code on. What exactly are we supposed to give and back to whom? I pictured two extremes: well resourced do-gooders giving back OR exalted heroes who sacrificed their lives. I felt inadequate, intimidated by the huge challenges facing our communities. Such is the paralyzing paradox for many of us “regular folks” who care deeply about our world - heart strings pulled in so many directions and uncertain how to help, the enormity of problems overshadows our power. After years of volunteer work (read about how I started a non-profit here), this is what giving back has taught me along the way.
The power of ONE. We have ample evidence of how powerful one person can be. We see the heroes, the change agents, the people who transform our world. It’s easy to see their power while failing to recognize that power within ourselves. I came to realize that my definition of “the world” had diminished my power because I could never measure up to the magnitude of challenges. What I’ve learned is that there is no world “out there” separate from the world right here, my world. And in my world, I was finally able to claim my power. I learned that changing the world starts within my own sphere of connectivity. I now know that simply by virtue of being here, we each have gifts to offer this world. Giving of ourselves comes in many forms as expression of US - whether it’s our talent, our time, or our treasure - we are more powerful than we ever imagined.
The power of MANY. The paradox is, while we are each powerful beyond measure, we’re in this thing called life together. Our world’s problems weren’t created by one person and won’t be solved by one person, so why think we can do it alone? When we join with others, collective giving amplifies our individual transformative power to affect change. And giving back is contagious. It’s through service that I learned firsthand the gravitational pull of giving back. Many people feel a yearning to serve but aren’t sure how. Seeing love in action, they are often inspired to take their own action, and activate their own power. The power of MANY creates community as our unique gifts are woven together in service to something greater.
Giving Is Receiving. Service is not meant to be glamorous - it’s often frustrating, difficult, exhausting. Though I’ve learned that the secret is to give from a place of love - and not from fear, obligation, or self interest (expecting anything in return). Giving from love fuels the fire of our inner power and unlocks the hidden treasure we receive in return. Through giving, we receive love and joy from within our own hearts. Through giving, we receive the experience of living in alignment with our values. Through giving, we receive the gift of witnessing the power of love in action. Giving back was never about me, and yet I’ve received so much in return.
Giving Forward. So if you haven’t cracked the code on giving back, start by looking at the world around you - not the world “out there” - YOUR world. What is showing up right in front of you? If giving back seems abstract, could you witness it up close through a friend or neighbor - or ask a local organization “how can I help”? And ask yourself "how does my intention and acts of service align with my values?" Over the years, my idea of giving back has evolved into “giving forward”. I offer my talents, time, and treasures forward to a better future for Love Orphanage because I love this world - my world, and I’ve learned that for now, that’s enough.