“The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes. ”
— Marcel Proust, “The Captive,” Remembrance of Things Past
Take a good look at this simple picture of my daughters and 15 other teenage girls at a volleyball camp last night. What do you see?
Here is what you might have thought,
- They’re having a meeting.
- The volleyballs are not being used.
- No one is exercising.
- The girls are tired.
- The girls are engaged.
- They’re not wearing matching outfits.
- Some girls are slouching.
- Their hair is in pony tails.
- This is boring.
- I remember playing volleyball when I was in school.
- That’s a bright shirt.
- They should all have knee pads.
- Volleyball is a waste of time.
- Volleyball is the best sport ever.
- One slacker girl is not paying attention. She’s not going to be any good.
- That girl in pink is ready for action. She must be good.
- There is no one in the stands. Why aren’t their parents there supporting them?
- Is it volleyball season already?
- The photo is lousy.
- The photo is great.
- And on and on and on and on.
The “reality” of those statements is that everything written above is “true.” There’s not one “right” answer. They are all “right.”
There are more differing, yet valid, viewpoints on this single photograph than I could possibly write down in one evening. What does that then say about the number of differing, yet valid, viewpoints on government, race, religion, gender, nationality, or even giving time?
Our perception clouds everything we think and do. Moreover, our perceptions about volunteering can even prevent us from doing good work in our community. Those perceptions might tell us that “I do enough”, “I don’t need to volunteer”, “It’s not my responsibility”, “I tried volunteering and it’s not for me”, “I don’t believe in charity”, “There’s nothing in it for me”, or “I … don’t … have … time.”
The next time you meet a volunteer delivering medicine for the elderly, stocking a food bank, pulling weeds on a public trail, collecting trash in a neighborhood, helping out a person with a disability, teaching a child a new skill, or even doing that little something extra in his or her neighborhood, stop and ask yourself –
- Do I really understand what volunteering is?
- Do I fully comprehend how giving time could impact the lives of others or me?
- Am I really connecting with very many people in my community?
Your perceptions are your reality. Fortunately, that reality can be changed.
But only if you let go of the “truth.”
Yesterday’s gift of time … Spent a couple hours last night after work watching my daughters go through some volleyball drills at camp. … Also read story to all three of my kids afterwards.