No Ruts About It

“New roads; new ruts.”

— G.K. Chesterton

It doesn’t take much to create a rut.

While my family was fortunate to enjoy some holiday downtime at the beach, it created a bit of a dilemma. Though I looked around online and in the newspapers, there weren’t any practical ways to volunteer in the small town in which we were staying. The end result was that I picked up trash on the beach. Every day.

By incorporating it into my daily run, it became easier the more I did it. After five days it became routine. And although beneficial to both man and beach, it quickly became my rut.

Instead of thinking, I found myself just going through the motions. After a few days, there were no more thoughts about ways I could reduce my own waste, who might benefit from not having junk on the beach, or even who tossed the trash overboard in the first place. I wasn’t focused on what I was giving. There was no intention.

The habit of giving, like any habit, can become a rut. Maybe you cook for the homeless shelter monthly, volunteer in the community garden every Saturday, volunteer at the annual church bingo game, or lead the PTO at your child’s school. By scheduling the commitment, you make compassion a regular part of your life. But it can also become a compassionate rut if you give your time in the same way again and again.

And even though it’s a good rut, there are downsides. People start to take your efforts for granted, leading to a feeling of lack of appreciation. Boredom creeps in. Volunteer work quality can slide as well over time, meaning you’re doing less in the same amount of time.

To avoid the rut, try to continually seek out of new ways to give your time, or new ways to do an old job. You won’t always come up with something innovative, but even “recycling” old ideas will help add variety to your volunteering. It helps keep the spirit of altruism fresh, your giving intentional, and that spark of generosity glowing brightly.

No ruts about it.


Yesterday’s gift of time … Picked up trash on the beach … again.

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About Eric Winger

Our perception of time is key to how we use our time. The most fundamental way to change that perception is to give our time. This opens us up to new opportunities and ideas from which we can build to really make a difference. ... Yes, we *do* have time to make a difference!
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