Earlier today I did my good deed of the week and contributed a few bills to a worthy charity that trains seeing eye dogs. The two people who were on the sidewalk asking people for donations were quite surprised and thanked me as though they hadn't received any donations up to that point (which I certainly hope is not the case). While I do like to give to very specific charities, I prefer to volunteer when given the option. This is the best way to help, as many of the charities I've worked with over the years have always suffered from a terrible shortage of hands. This got me thinking, though.
Ten years ago I was working at a homeless shelter in Vancouver. I typically worked in the kitchen or in the cafeteria and would see quite the variety of destitute people. Newcomers were always embarrassed. Regulars were typically angry. The occasional miscreants would regularly cause trouble1. Everybody had a story, though, and I would often sit down and talk to people over coffee. Although the work eventually took it's emotional toll on me, I did enjoy giving back to the community in (what I hope was) a positive way.
Since moving to Japan, I have continued to donate my time to community centres, mainly with the goal of teaching young kids the basics of programming and robot construction, but the vast majority of my donated time has gone to the day job ... a company with billions of yen in revenues every year. I know for a fact that I've had a positive impact on the bottom line in the region with all of my efforts, but I get so little satisfaction and recognition from the efforts that I might as well have never embarked upon the work in the first place. So why don't I invest my free time into something more constructive like volunteerism at a charity?
Volunteer work isn't in the cards for 2015, but it most certainly should be possible come January 2016. It's high time I start contributing something tangible back to the community. Something that, at the end of the day, I can stand back and be proud of knowing that some good was done.
- Usually in the manner of property theft.↩