I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.
Most of us have more than we need. Certainly, we would all like to have more money, but look around you - isn’t it proven every day in this profoundly selfish world that there will never be enough. No matter how much we make we will always want more.
The good thing is that we are all blessed with THREE GIFTS – to one degree or another:
· OUR TIME
· OUR TALENTS
· OUR TREASURES
And since so much of our focus today is on the latter – our treasures or our money and possessions – this essay will focus on the incredible power of OUR TIME. We’ll talk about TALENTS next time and TREASURES after that.
If you look back over the last year:
· How many times did you take the initiative to volunteer your time to help an individual or institution in need?
Let’s be frank. Taking the time to give our time is inconvenient. I just don’t have the time – is a frequent retort. Well that argument is patently false. We all have the same amount of time – 24 hours every day. So it’s not a matter of having the time, it’s a matter of taking the time. And that’s where most of us fail.
When you think about how much time we have it’s actually quite a lot – 24 hours a day translates into 168 hours a week. So what do we do with all that time?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, here’s how the average American spends those 24 hours each day (averaging out over a seven-day week):
· SLEEP: 8 hours 34 minutes
· LEISURE & SPORTS: 5 hours 7 minutes (this includes watching TV, socializing via cell, text, Facebook, Twitter, working out, etc.)
· WORK: 3 hours 28 minutes
· EATING & DRINKING: 1 hour 7 minutes
· SHOPPING: 47 minutes
· PERSONAL GROOMING: 40 minutes
· HOUSEWORK: 38 minutes
· CARING FOR HOUSEHOLD MEMBERS: 32 minutes
· FOOD PREP & CLEAN-UP: 31 minutes
· OTHER IN-HOME ACTIVITIES: 18 minutes
· OTHER OUT-OF-HOME ACTIVITIES: 18 minutes
SUB-TOTAL: 22 hours 0 minutes
AMOUNT OF DISPOSABLE TIME: 2 hours 0 minutes per day
While you might argue with the precise calculation and categorization of how you personally spend your time, the bottom line is this: It’s pretty safe to assume that we all have at least 2 hours of DISPOSABLE TIME each day after accounting for every other activity that we do from watching TV to texting our friend to flossing our teeth. And imagine just how much more time you could have if you cut down on watching TV, playing video games, or mindlessly Facebooking friends about your morning coffee choice.
So the real question is what are we doing with those 2 hours of DISPOSABLE TIME? Let me suggest that we treat those 2 hours just like we would treat a $20 bill we find in our coat pocket just before we turn it over to the dry cleaners – as FOUND TIME. And as FOUND TIME let’s do something with it that we ordinarily would not do – like give it away!
But let’s make it even easier. Let’s start by asking every able adult man and woman from the ages of 18 to 64 to GIVE 2 HOURS of the 14 DISPOSABLE HOURS they have each week - time that could be spent talking with a lonely senior in a local assisted-care facility, or tutoring an at-risk high school student, or in a soup kitchen cooking and serving up meals for those who need it most.
Now let’s try to quantify the potential impact of 175 million Americans volunteering just two hours each week over a year to worthy causes:
· If 175 million Americans gave just 2 hours a week that’s a total of 350 million donated hours per week or 18.2 billion hours per year
· That’s the equivalent of having each of the 285,000 employees at General Electric TIMES 30 all working full-time on worthy projects
Think about that – think about having 30 General Electrics all dedicated full-time not to make a profit but to make a difference! That is truly a powerful concept. And the beauty is that it takes just a fraction of the DISPOSABLE TIME that we all have – regardless of income.
This is the type of unconventional game-changing effort that it will take to tackle many of the insurmountable challenges that lay ahead of us. To put the depth of just one of our challenges in perspective and why a collaborative effort is the only feasible way to address them, let’s look at the national debt for example:
· Our current Federal debt is $14.9 trillion
· The U.S. has generated a budget surplus just 12 times since World War II – the largest of which was $236.4 billion in 2000
· In order to pay off just the debt principle, we would have to generate a surplus of $250 billion each year for 60 straight years!
When you look at this specific challenge from this perspective, it becomes clear that we will never be able to pay down the Federal debt using conventional tactics - especially when you consider that the interest alone on the Federal debt is currently in excess of $450 billion a year – or close to $1.25 billion a day before we fund any activity that the government must do. Think about that: when the Office of Management and Budget starts building the budget for the Federal government each year they start nearly one-half a trillion dollars in the hole before assigning $1 to anything!
Since it is highly unlikely that we will pay off or even pay down the Federal debt in any of our respective lifetimes, perhaps we can use unconventional thinking to begin to leverage the goodwill of Americans to begin to fix things that need fixing. Since we all have the time, where do we start?
We start by getting up and off the couch and funneling our collective time into organizations that are already in place to help lessen the burden. There are dozens of opportunities to volunteer just a short distance from your home.
While there is no shortage of charitable organizations out there, the web has made it easier than ever to find something that works for you, wherever you live and whenever you have time to give. Here’s an organization for volunteers across the country that serves as a sort of eHarmony for volunteers - VolunteerMatch.org. According to their website:
VolunteerMatch.org strengthens communities by making it easier for good people and good causes to connect. The organization offers a variety of online services to support a community of non-profit, volunteer, and business leaders committed to civic engagement. Our popular service welcomes millions of visitors a year and has become the preferred internet recruiting tool for more than 79,000 nonprofit organizations.
So here’s your challenge over the next month:
Simply visit www.volunteermatch.org or any similar site and find an organization that could use 2 hours of your skills and your time sometime over the next month. Do it just once. GIVE 2 HOURS just once over the next month to try it out – to help a child whose parent is in prison and needs some mentoring, or to help with fall clean-up in a community garden. Something, anything that works for you.
And I promise that I will do the same. And after I GIVE MY 2 HOURS, I will report back to you on what it was and how it helped and especially how it felt.
Next time, I will talk about blending our TIME and TALENTS to create a comprehensive, volunteer effort that would be dedicated to lessening the extraordinary burden on local municipalities – the cities and towns that have billions of dollars in unfunded future pension liabilities that are causing them to cut much needed services across the board today.