Are you familiar with the starfish story
? A man walking along the beach sees a young boy tossing starfish back into the ocean, one by one. The man approached the boy to ask what he was doing. The boy explained, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”
The man saw the futility in this effort. So many miles of beach. So many starfish washed up upon it. So little time. Despite his best efforts, the boy would hardly make a dent and he told him this. The boy, however, saw things differently. As he picked up another starfish and tossed it back into the water he said, “It made a difference for that one.”
The story, which has been adapted many times from Loren Eisely’s The Star Thrower,
raises an interesting question for us. Are you the man looking out at the world and seeing futility in small gestures, or are you the boy who understands that even changing one person’s world makes an impact? Now is the time to pull on the optimism and determination of the boy. Now is the time to pick your mission and offer your talents.
Volunteering gives you the opportunity to stretch beyond the parameters of your day job and test drive new skills. Likewise, volunteering lets you exercise skill-muscles you’ve not tapped into as your career has advanced.
Even for those of us who work for a nonprofit, the functions we perform may be removed from the front lines. We can get bogged down in juggling the administrative tasks of an organization and lose sight of the ripples of difference going on around us. Pushing up our sleeves and jumping into the fray reminds us what we’re doing here in the first place. If your career has taken you into the corporate sector, volunteering gives you the opportunity to use your skills and talents in a way that may help you reconnect with the passion they sparked in you at the start of your career. As Winston Churchill said “You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.”
Many organizations set aside a day of service. Employees leave behind their desks and spend a day working in the community. Volunteering together builds connections within your team.
Make the World a Better Place
Giving back has its personal perks, as noted above. The real value, however, is that giving of your time and talent sends ripples of positive change out into the world. A wise person once said, “Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.”