We should think about using our talents for more than just gaining headlines in the local paper. Using our talents to help our community will only help us gain more even more talents by sharing them with others.
Erma Bombeck, one of America's most famous humorist once said, "When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say, 'I used everything you gave me'"
For most of us, we have received at least one talent, even if it is a bit hidden; some of us have even received even more. The best thing about human beings is that we can gain other talents by learning from and observing others. Consider education, healthcare, libraries and literacy, government, and community organizations, just a mere five opportunities to use your talents to help your community.
Schools need all sorts of tutors, and you don't have to be a guru or possess a Ph.D. to become one. Many elementary schools would enjoy having people come and read to the children, help the teacher with a specific assignment, be a chaperone on a field trip or even grade papers. Plus, if you have a special talent like writing, many elementary teachers would jump at the chance to have a writer or someone with a unique skill come to their class and share it with the students. Not only does it help the teacher in certain areas, it also demonstrates to the students that there are others out there who believe that learning is important and useful. Many volunteer parent-teacher organizations raise an enormous amount of money for books, supplies and even large items like playground equipment.
If you haven't noticed, there is a plethora of long-term care facilities and community hospitals springing up everywhere. America is growing older. What all this means for you is that many more opportunities will emerge to serve those who have literally created wealth and opportunity for today's and tomorrow's generation. Many hospitals have gift and floral shops, all run by volunteers who take great pride in giving back to their communities. Many youth groups go to care facilities, read to the residents, play checkers or chess with them, give mini-concerts or just talk to the residents. Many of these people crave a visit. Just taking time to spend an hour or two a week at one of these facilities will make your day better, especially the residents' day.
Libraries and Literacy
Go to your local library, and you'll discover incredible things are happening. English as a second language programs (ESL), literacy, reading and other programs are being offered for free or close to it. These local libraries consistently search for people with varying skills to present a topic for discussion, lead book discussions, participate in story time, tutor, answer phones, run errands, serve on library boards, tutor students, teach classes and even stock shelves.
Why not spend time at your local library, sleuthing the many opportunities to serve there, including helping with the literacy movement? Unfortunately, illiteracy still runs rampant in our country. The U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy recently completed a study proclaiming "32 million adults in the U.S. can't read. That's 14 percent of the population. Twenty-one percent of adults in the U.S. read below a 5th-grade level, and 19 percent of high school graduates can't read."
Government and Community Organizations
We have heard our entire lives that "We're from the government, and we're here to help you." Well, just the reverse is true, too. If you go to your local government websites, either city, county or even state, you will quickly note a call for volunteers. Cities, particularly, have a host of opportunities to serve on conservation, library, weed control, housing and other boards.
Every community can benefit from volunteer efforts. For example, by Googling Cheyenne, Wyoming, home to the famous Cheyenne Frontier Days, you can read about more than 30 community organizations searching for volunteers ranging from the ubiquitous United Way to Community Action of Laramie County to the Comea Shelter to the YMCA to many others. Each of these organizations has dozens of volunteers and would enjoy having more to help with the tremendous load.
Additionally, many communities have community education programs ranging from Dutch oven cooking, quilting, floral arranging, history and a megabyte or two of computer and photography courses. If you have a skill set you would like to share, share it. Some community programs allow people to share their talents for free while others pay the instructor a minimal per hour cost. Many rural communities, especially the agricultural ones, have an enormous need for volunteers to teach young people in 4-H clubs and coach emerging football, baseball, soccer and baseball teams as well as run camps. Literally, every community in America searches for people to share their skills.
Overall, we gain more talents by sharing our own and learning about others. Ask anyone who volunteers in any capacity, and they will tell you when they serve others and share their talent, large or small, they literally forget their own problems and feel a sense of accomplishment. It's all about reaching out and extending ourselves more than we ever thought possible. Thus, one of the most compelling ways of enhancing our talents is by using them to help our communities.
Darrel Hammon likes being outdoors, growing things and seeing things the way they could be. You can read more of his musings at darrelhammon.blogspot.com. He and his wife worked as welfare volunteers in the Caribbean.