note from Bethany: This is the first post of a three part series on sharing real life stories of living bigger than yourself. This one is written by my friend Josh. Josh & I have been friends since high school, and he has a huge heart for others. He has shared on Coffee Shop Communication before with To google or not to google and Guilty Pleasures. Now, Josh writes at Off the Shelf about embracing the random and living with passion.
When I first heard about Bethany’s series on making a difference, my first thought was, Man, I wish you had asked me this a few years ago. Opportunities to volunteer were endless throughout my school years. I always enjoyed time spent in service. Some experiences that stick out:
- Language and culture exchange in Hong Kong
- “Purging” at GoodWill
- Sorting non-perishable food items at a men’s shelter with Korean students visiting Ball State
- Building a playground
- Cleaning toilets at local businesses (Even Taco Bell…)
- Helping with block parties
- Mentoring youth
- International student orientation at Ball State
The experiences I’ve had are varied, but each connects with a common thread–they have provided new perspective. I’m often reminded of how fortunate I am, and I’m often encouraged to find ways others are helping out in whatever capacity they’re able. Reflecting on that reality got me thinking again about Bethany’s question.
A bit of background on me: I got an English degree with a Chinese minor, and I now manage a commercial farm using Spanish and English daily. Other managers are native Spanish speakers, but I occasionally help translate because my farm is closest to the office. I enjoy it, and my experiences in diverse linguistic settings make me very comfortable asking for clarification when I don’t understand.
I recently translated for our nurse and HR representative. I’ve helped each of these ladies before, and they’re constantly helping me as well. I didn’t feel like I had ’saved the day’ by any means, but to them my help was a huge relief. Simply by being available, I was able to smooth out their day. My instinct was, This is too simple to use for Bethany’s series.
One of the same co-workers has a seven year-old son that shares a love of mine: Adventure Time, a hilariously entertaining cartoon I watch. I’ve been reading the comic books for Adventure Time lately, and I lend him the books to read. He recently sent me a thank you card, and she let me know that reading the comics keeps him very focused and out of trouble. They’re expecting their fifth baby soon, so I sent a bigger stack of comics this time to help ease the craziness around the house. Again I wondered, Isn’t this too easy?
I joined a book club last year, and I’ve become great friends with another member; we’re kindred spirits if ever they existed. She is a writer who has inspired me tremendously, and our friendship is refreshing and rejuvenating for us both. Similarly, I’ve deepened multiple friendships in the past year and reconnected with people. I figured these might get me partial credit, right?
It wasn’t until reading more on Bethany’s blog that I slowed down and got practical. I would never suggest to somebody else that making a difference has to be complicated or difficult. By making yourself available, enjoying your passions and being yourself, you will undoubtedly make a difference.
I say that with confidence because of people who have impacted my life. It’s not the people who gave me the most money. In fact, it’s not even the people I see most often, necessarily. Instead, it’s the people who have been there when it really counts. It’s also the people who remain true to themselves, regardless of the support or challenges they offer me.
Live with passion. Embrace the random. Be YOU.