Give More Than You Take

November 11, 2009 at 2:41 pm Leave a comment

By Christine McCall, Cradles to Crayons Community Outreach Coordinator and AmeriCorps VISTA

Members of B.A.D. pose with Cradles to Crayons' staffers.

Too often daily life is consumed by people thinking of themselves and how they can get ahead in this world. It is rare that people actually stop what they are doing, even if just for a minute, to reflect and think of others around them who need help and may be struggling.

However, with President Barack Obama in office stressing the importance of civic engagement and young, energetic and idealistic minds like those of the Being and Doing (B.A.D.) crew – Andrew Michalko, 23, Chris McNulty, 23, and Katie Michalko, 19 – that attitude may be changing.

Obama has vowed to make public service a theme of his presidency. On the eve of his inauguration Obama said, “Don’t underestimate the power for people to pull together and to accomplish amazing things.”

“These young people have huge potential that right now is not being tapped, and given the crisis that we’re in and the hardships that so many people are going through, we can’t allow any idle hands,” he added. “Everybody’s got to be involved. Everybody’s going to have to pitch in, and I think the American people are ready for that.”

B.A.D. defies the stereotype of lazy and idle people as their name suggests. Hungry with desire to bring about social change and awareness of the work other nonprofit organizations are doing, the Michalko siblings and McNulty created Being and Doing.

Hailing from Lakewood, Ohio, Being and Doing is a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing attention to the ideals and goals of other nonprofit groups across the country. B.A.D. does this by traveling from site to site in their BADmobile to volunteer.  After completing about a week of service, they move on to the next project, but continue to spread the word about the nonprofit in their blog.

After about seven months of planning, self reflection and deliberation, B.A.D. began their trek. They departed from Cleveland May 22 and have traveled to and volunteered at nonprofits in Racine, Ohio; Alliance, Ohio, Philadelphia, Boston and Bar Harbor, Maine.

B.A.D. volunteered at Cradles to Crayons Philadelphia mid June and continued on to Cradles to Crayons Boston for a week. While at The Giving Factory, the B.A.D. crew worked with volunteers at the various work stations in the warehouse.

Volunteering can be an invaluable experience, and the B.A.D. crew is learning this firsthand on their journey. “Volunteering is a fun way to stay connected to the true things in this world that deserve it,” Andrew said. “Community is the thing that keeps people together and should be great.”

Katie’s hope is to increase awareness about the nonprofit sector, as well as encourage people to think about their values, what motivates them and what is truly necessary and/or important in life.

“When you volunteer, you’re thinking about someone other than yourself and you’re actively participating in something bigger than yourself,” Katie said. “This is extremely important because it reminds you of what you possess and what other people are lacking, or vise versa, and how easy it is to simply make yourself available to help other people.”

“Volunteering is labor without an ulterior motive,” McNulty said. “ It is freely giving of oneself for the benefit of individuals or groups who, in turn, are working for a greater good.”

B.A.D. serves as just one example of how people can immerse themselves in volunteer work. They also exemplify what it means to have a vision, follow through on it and lead by example.

Not many people have the means to engage in volunteer work to this extreme. However, just because you can’t pack up and travel around the country to volunteer, doesn’t mean you can’t give back. Volunteering can be made simple and giving back can take multiple forms.

In Obama’s first 100 days, he followed through on his commitment to national service, as he signed the Edward M. Kennedy Act. This bill creates a plethora of opportunities for Americans of all ages to serve in their communities.

Obama’s message and this bill are reminders that everyone has something to give.

“The stigma is that volunteering is a lot of hard work without any reward, but the reward is just not something that you can spend on a pack of gum,” McNulty said. “The rewards include experience, lessons, networking, accomplishment, self-worth, appreciation, exercise and hearty laughter. Volunteer work is everywhere, and while people have their pet projects, all good work is GOOD work.”

McNulty hopes that B.A.D. inspires people to take some kind of action. “Complacent behavior is the downfall of real progression, and I want to stir people’s minds out of complacency,” he said.

If these values could be instilled in each one of us, this world would be a different place. We should encourage our family, friends and colleagues to step outside of their comfort zone and look beyond what they know and question what they can do to make a difference.

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Entry filed under: Child Poverty, Legislation, Volunteer Experience.

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