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To make an impact in the world, start at home

“How can I help?” I hear this question a lot in my line of work. Individuals find out about a community need or a national cause that resonates within them and they feel drawn to contribute in some way; they just don’t know what the first step is.

If I am honest, this question causes a slight twinge of anxiety deep in my stomach because I am usually asking myself the same question.

I believe that caring for others is a natural reflex. It is something that is Darwin-ingly written into the human story. But, just because we want to do something doesn’t mean we know how.

For me, and for the individuals that often ask me this question, I recommend starting as close to home as possible. And there is no one who is closer to home than our own selves.

Begin by asking yourself, “What about this particular situation moved me in a way that other scenarios, causes or needs have not?” This exercise isn’t intended to create a sense of guilt within yourself; as if feeling emboldened to fight for “Cause A” over “Cause B” makes you a less compassionate person. Trying to solve all of the world’s problems is a surefire plan to burn out quickly, ensuring that both you and the cause you are passionate about stay in an indefinite holding pattern of immobility.

Strive to identify what it is about your passions and your life experiences that intersects with this particular cause. Then, look for individuals or organizations in your local community that feel the same way. The next step is to find ways to partner and collaborate together so that you can multiply the impact of your singular efforts.

Finally, remember that very few of us are called to be the front line champions of an individual cause. That does not make our work any less significant. The work of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. would have surely failed if it had not been for the thousands of other individuals also playing their part all throughout our country.

Recently, I took a tour of our local Salvation Army Center. Many individuals in our community do not know that they operate a 47-bed shelter for individuals and families experiencing homelessness. My guide through the building explained that they had witnessed many of the families that stayed with them suffering a great sense of shame. We walked outside along a tall white fence as she detailed their stories and their struggles. She paused at the gate and slowly opened the door to a beautiful and pristine playground. As I took in the sight she quietly said, just as much to herself as to me, “It is hard to feel ashamed when you are going down a slide.”

The individuals at the Salvation Army will not end homelessness in our community. But they saw a need and did what they could to make in impact in the lives of those closest to them. May we all

Nate Addington, a Contributing Writer for the Voice, can be reached for com

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