Learning the joy of doing the most good

What would you think of someone who spent 30 years doing almost nothing for anyone else?

Welcome to my world. I was a big-city newspaper reporter and editor, working ridiculously long hours – and having the career of my dreams. I was a national correspondent, a foreign correspondent based in London, an investigative reporter and filled dozens of other jobs, none of which let me schedule time to do the least good, let alone the most good.

Today, I take on ridiculously complicated projects, visit odd places, show up at odd hours – and am having the retirement of my dreams as I fill my life with volunteer work. The Salvation Army is my A#1 volunteer commitment, and I consider it a great privilege to spend time with the officers, staffers and other volunteers who together keep this engine running.

I joined the Advisory Board of The Salvation Army of Greater Charlotte eight years ago, introduced by a long-serving member who knew I was a do-er. You may have the impression that board members sit in a room and ponder. We do that, but so much more. Here are just a few of my “board projects:”

  • Worked The Salvation Army table at community events.
  • Written about clients looking for a hand up, not a handout.
  • Stuffed Christmas stockings.
  • Helped a child as he learned to use a camera.
  • Used my newspaper experience to help with media matters.
  • Brought mountain apples to the Center of Hope shelter.
  • Handed out treats to kids exhausted from healthy play.
  • Rang a bell and sang carols outside a Sam’s Club.
  • Showed seniors how to clean coveted pieces of jewelry.
  • Shared cookies and conversation with homeless women outside the shelter.
  • Learned about the awful scourge of human trafficking.
  • Scooped up 10 pairs of men’s dress shoes at a second-hand store to help men leaving the Adult Rehabilitation Center.

Oh yes, and also attended board and committee meetings. To be honest, I look forward to them, for there is always something to learn, and for me, that is better than chocolate!

I visit Hospice patients at their homes, and sing with a group to patients and family members at Hospice House in Huntersville. Several groups were short enough of altos to let me sing with them. Church work is an important part of my life, too, as is helping people struggling to write resumes or letters. Last spring I returned to my alma mater, Penn State, to spend time talking to students about life outside academia, and I soon will be endowing a scholarship there.

The Salvation Army’s motto is “Doing the Most Good.” It is perfect as a guide for my life, too. In some ways, giving my time and energy is selfish, for I get back so much more than I give. No matter where you are or what you are doing, nothing brings happiness more quickly than seeing a smile when you help someone in need.

Those of us who are blessed – and most assuredly, I am one – need also to be a blessing to others. I thank The Salvation Army for giving me abundant opportunity to do just that.

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