Outside my little world

I recently read “A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity” by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. If you need some motivation to get involved in your community or a community halfway around the world, this is your book. They detail ways that volunteers have changed people’s lives, from big projects such as starting a nonprofit to ideas as simple as making sure a child has interesting books to read.

One aspect of the book I really liked was the emphasis on using skills you already have to help a nonprofit. They demonstrate that we don’t all need to quit our jobs and work at a nonprofit to produce major change. We can use skills from our work lives, such as financial planning, marketing, or communications, to help nonprofits expand their reach and become more efficient.

Even before reading the book, I had been thinking about getting involved in a nonprofit. I go through phases where I feel as though my life is expanding, that I’m finding good work opportunities and making social connections. Other times, my life seems to shrink, and I’ve felt that way lately. Eleanor goes to school across the street, and Henry’s babysitter is a block away, and we live a mile from the grocery store. Sometimes all I do in a week is travel that little loop. My car battery is literally dying from lack of use. At least I’m doing my part for the environment!

A couple of weeks ago, I had a conversation with a few friends, all moms, about volunteer work and how we can go about squeezing it into our lives. I was inspired! We spend hours debating how to handle homework assignments, allowances, and the disposal of Halloween candy (Both the eat-it-all-at-once method and the piece-a-day method bring their own unique misery.). It was so good to discuss issues beyond our little suburban circle. Thinking about people without access to food or education forces me to be grateful for how easy and rich our lives our.

I’ve been fortunate to write a lot about maternal health and grief. Well, not fortunate to know so much, but fortunate to be able to help other families, to create some good out of a terrible event. Lately, I’ve wanted to do more locally so that I might connect with people in person instead of by email. I got in touch with an area nonprofit that does some work related to infant death, and I’ve gone through training to volunteer there.

I attended the Texas Conference for Women last week, and at lunch, I began to exchange small talk with the woman next to me. I told her about a panel I had attended on nonprofits, and she asked what sort of work I was interested in. So I launched into the sad baby story, which I prefer to avoid with strangers, and told her that I was about to start volunteering. Turns out that she is on the board of the nonprofit that I’m volunteering with. Her son died at three months old. In a room with 5,000 women, this is who I sat next to. Amazing to meet someone who needed no explaining and who didn’t flinch at the word “stillborn.”

So all of this is to say that I’m glad the book helped urge me to action. My own problems seem to lessen when I instead focus on how I can help other people. Enough with this blog post. Go find your cause!