Renew America, the new Obama-backed campaign asks us to step up and volunteer at a time when many are stepping down into living on less. For many, that’s much less. As a former Obama campaign staffer I suggest starting small and sticking to it – but tackling something
more than buying a T-shirt.
The manager of our local food bank took the time to understand
the would-be volunteers he wanted to attract. That’s why he chose to keep the facilities open on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings for volunteers to stack shelves after our regular workday was done. He tripled the number of volunteers in two months.
Plus he put us in six-person teams so we got to know each other. (As Rick Warren and others have discovered, small groups, meeting regularly, make people feel closer to a larger group.)
Then he asked volunteers for ways to improve operations. He got 64 ideas. More significantly, within three days of receiving them, told us why he was or was not using each of them. That made us smarter when making further suggestions. One idea that was approved came from a janitor on my team. She suggested that the food bank reward recipients who also volunteered with something special – products our team would contribute. In these ways the food bank:
• Turned from “simply” a non-profit to help others into a community of us.
• Set on a path of increased efficiency.
• Became a magnet for more resources, gladly given without being asked
• Expand its capacity to serve all of us.
What I am learning: Enabling us to use our talents together brings out the best in each of us so we are more likely to see and support each other’s best side. That makes us happier and higher-performing together. While we can’t erase the Us vs. Them instinct in our hard-wired brain we can, in these small ways, move closer to feeling we are one.
As Martin Luther King preached on December 24, 1967, “It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality.”