Some of you may know I work in the world of non-profits. My job description is hard to describe and would take up far too much of this blog to get into. The short of it is, each year I go out to try and raise money for over three hundred non-profit organizations.
I speak about the need in our communities: the homeless, the animals, the sick, the elderly, the ill. I tell prospective donors how even a dollar can make a huge difference. People don’t know the way the dollars stretch – $1 to a local food kitchen is enough to provide a full meal: salad, entree, dessert, drink to a person in need. That’s only $1.00, imagine what $20, $50, $500 could do.
Working with these non-profits and trying to help raise money for them these past 7, going on 8, years has really opened my eyes to how many people are out in the world doing good. I would see employees in workplace giving campaigns donate their time to work on the campaign, to ask their colleagues to contribute (and trust me, asking for donations is no easy task). Employees would donate gifts, baked goods, handmade items as drawing incentives. And, of course, they donated money.
If you aren’t familiar with Miles aka BatKid and the amazing wish Make-A-Wish San Francisco granted him please run to Google right now for enlightenment and be prepared for your heart to swell up five times its size.
I caught wind of the goings on early in the day. Something about Batman and San Francisco, two things I love dearly. Once I fully turned my interest onto the event, I was done. I followed along on Twitter and the streams. I didn’t accomplish anything at work, instead I hid out in my office and watched the day unfold, laughing and crying. I couldn’t think of anything else while Miles ran all over San Francisco in his perfect costume, rescuing Lou Seal and damsels in distress, and fighting to save the City I love so much. My friends joked they didn’t need any other outlet than my Facebook feed to find out what was going on. I updated at every turn. BatKid stole my heart.
But it wasn’t just my heart.
The day started with a few people coming out to support him and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. By the end it, the crowds of people gathered in support of BatKid were beyond belief. By the time he’d reached Civic Center Plaza, a place I frequent often, it was packed with people cheering, crying, holding up signs of support. My brother and I were messaging back and forth, crying the way we Irish are known for, “Look! Look! It’s perfect!”
I spent much of last night reliving the day and thinking about BatKid, about Make-A-Wish, about the world of non-profits. I mulled over all the speeches I’ve given, I thought about how many people out there need help, and about how many organizations there are trying to help those people but how those organizations need help, too. I thought about all those amazing people who had come together to support BatKid. All these people who had volunteered to make one day special for a little boy they had never met. How amazing all these people were!
Then I realized, I could be one of those people, too.
I have a busy schedule, and I don’t have a lot of extra money to throw around, but I have spent my fair share of time doing little more than slothing on my sofa. What if I took some of that time and really did something with it? What if, instead of being the person who follows along an amazing adventure from behind a computer screen, cheering my hero along, I became a person who was out there doing?
This morning, I found a volunteer site and began signing up.
I’m going to bake holiday cookies for a place who will deliver them to developmentally disabled people who may not have a Christmas or have family to celebrate with, who may not be able to get out and pick up their own bit of holiday cheer.
I’m going to spend the morning after Christmas preparing “After Christmas” meals for a local shelter and then I’m going to give up a few hours of my New Year’s Eve at that same shelter, prepping New Year’s Eve meals for the residents.
I’m going to spend a Saturday afternoon filling bags with hats, gloves, scarves, ponchos, and holiday cards made by kids to be distributed to those in need throughout the SF Bay Area. And I’m going to spend the next afternoon helping sort and stock a local food pantry.
I’m going to DO. I’m going to BE THE CHANGE. I’m not going to just stand by, with a warmed heart, commending all those amazing people out there doing so much good in the world – I’m going to become one.
“Charitable giving,” I always say in my speeches, “Is contagious. When you give, it may encourage those around you to give. When you speak about your volunteer work, it may inspire others to join you.” Those aren’t just words in a speech anymore. They are words I understand far better than I ever have. They are words that I have decided to live.
So thank you, Miles aka BatKid, and thank you Make-A-Wish, and thank you my beloved San Francisco. I think you may have stirred the inner superhero in all of us.
(If you want to look for volunteer opportunities, there is a great site called volunteermatch.org that may assist you. I found a similar site specific to my local area with a simple search of “[county I live in] volunteer opportunities.”)
**Edited to add: After writing this and signing up for volunteer opportunities, a colleague decided she wanted to help, too, and joined me at the backpack stuffing event, another friend joined in on the holiday baking, and a third joined me at the food bank. It really is contagious…