It’s Not About You

The week of April 10-16, 2016 is by Presidential Proclamation, National Volunteer Week in the United States. The proclamation says that this is the week “we celebrate the selfless individuals around our country who channel their civic virtues through volunteerism, and we encourage more people to make service an integral part of their lives.” 

In 2002 Pastor Rick Warren published a book entitled, “A Purpose Driven Life.” It was on best seller lists for years and by 2007 more than 30 million copies had been sold. There were lots of sentences in the book, many passages of Biblical Scripture were quoted and it is a great read to this very day.

Many people, including me, might say that no sentence in the book was as impactful as the very first one:

It’s not about you.

It is a book written by a Christian Pastor but it wasn’t written specifically for Christians. The advice and guidance provided in the book could be life changing for anyone who took it to heart. The book speaks to living your life on purpose for a purpose. I believe we all have at least one common purpose in life and that purpose is to add value to the world by giving something back. 

We give back because life is not all about us.

President John F. Kennedy said “For of those to whom much is given, much is required.” The inspiration for President Kennedy’s famous observation, can be found in Luke 12:48: “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.”

You may not think of it this way but your ability to simply read this post demonstrates that you have been given much, at least more than some others. Despite life’s ups and downs most of us really do have a pretty wonderful life. During national volunteer week no one is asking that you give back all that you have been given, you’re only asked to share a little bit of your wonderful life.

Mahatma Gandhi said that we should “live simply so that others may simply live.” That is the essence of giving and of volunteering. Your smallest act of giving, your smallest act of kindness, and your smallest act of volunteering could potentially make a huge difference for someone else, or, it may make it possible for them to simply live.

Just because you may not see the difference doesn’t mean you didn’t make one and just because you may not personally receive thanks for your efforts doesn’t mean that someone isn’t thankful. 

The only real reason you need for making a difference is that you can. You don’t have to change the entire world to make a difference in it. You can make a difference in the world just by making a difference in the life of one other person.

Warren Buffett is quoted as saying, “Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” What he meant by that is sometimes it takes a long time for a difference to be seen. You should know that today and always, the tasks you undertake for others will make a difference in their lives someday, whether you get to see it or not.

So this week we should all be planting metaphorical trees, we should water them with additional acts of volunteerism throughout the year and never forget this all important fact: it’s not about you.