activism,  the ethical life

Giving time

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I’ve had some experience both being a recepient of others assistance and of helping others. I’ve also participated in group actions either for causes or for individuals, and I’ve helped to organize events. All of this has given me an appreciation of the gift of time. I don’t mean having lots of time oneself, but being willing to just give time to someone or something else, no strings attached.

I think of one incident. A group of us where there to help someone. Things were dull and at some point someone whispered “why did I bother coming?” The comment bit into my mind. I felt a momentary surge of frusturation, worried that we would have to make everything exciting enough or people wouldn’t want to continue to be involved. Then I had a flash of insight and some peace. It was the person’s problem if he regretted the time spent or not. It wasn’t mine.

Time is a gift. If you’re going to give it, give it without strings attached. Thinking about that I wanted to write out some guidelines for giving your time.

1) Never give time you don’t have. Nothing breeds resentment like giving up time you don’t have.

2) Take responsibility for your decision to give your time. If you give your time, it is not the recepients problem that you didn’t manage to get the paper written you needed to, or the housework or whatever else it is you could have been doing instead. Its your decision. Stick to it.

3) Are you doing it to support a person? If so, do it for love of that person and try not to measure the success by your own standards but by theirs.

4) Remember that there is importance in just being there. Sometime I’ll go to try to help out at a community supper or something and find there’s actually lots of people there to help and I sort of feel like an unnecessary extra. Yet I know from organizing things it is sometimes hard to pin down how many people will actually show up and how many will be needed. Showing up can be a gift to the organizers, some extra security for them against the fearful prospect of not having enough people and assuring them that you value the project and what they are doing. If you measure the worth of being there by whether there’s actually stuff for you to do you can miss realizing that there is importance in just being there for them. I’m learning that I don’t need to have things to do, and that sometimes mingling with the crowd and talking is important too.

5) That brings me to my next point. Giving time to someone or something doesn’t mean one completely loses the time either. Take the time to grow in some way.

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