Three Ways You Can Make An Impact
Building a big woodpile is a monster job. So big, that it can be useful to break it down to make sure you cover it all.
I like to think about three different categories for the impact we can make: Family, Vocation, and Community. Most people will find that those three areas cover 99% of their lives (that’s just an estimate). I find that it’s incredibly important to build your woodpile in each category for just that reason – to be fully covered.
THE GRACE OF GIVING
One thing I’ve figured out over the years is that it’s pretty common to have one area of my life not go so smoothly, while other areas are cooking right along. Maybe the home life is great, but work is stressing me out. Or I had a big success at work, but that volunteer project I was working on hit a roadblock that’s going to affect how many people can be helped.
That’s going to happen, not much you can do about it. What you can manage, however, is how much you let trouble in one area impact success in other areas. How do you do that? By being deliberate. Building a woodpile is a very deliberate thing – wood doesn’t stack itself! You’ve first got to make a decision that I’m going to do this thing, to act in this way, to go out of my way to make sure someone other than me is doing well.
What that “thing” really is, is giving a bit of yourself, that positive part of you, to someone or something else. A gift that is something wholly new; it didn’t exist before, wasn’t created in a shop or grown in a field. By making that choice, you’re freeing someone or some organization from some burden they may have had.
It’s a different kind of gift. It’s the wood that gets stacked on your pile.
Think about what you’re doing in each area to build your woodpile already. No need to make any changes right now; we can make changes after we understand what we’re already doing to make a difference, which is usually more than most people believe.
BUILDING YOUR FAMILY
The “family” category includes any way that you lift up, improve, or support the people around you. It’s not about a hard, traditional definition of the family – although it certainly includes parents, children, cousins, and more. It can also include those special people that you hold dear – maybe a “nephew of the heart” or a special co-worker that you stay in touch with long after they retire or move on.
I love my family. Yeah, I come from an extensive group of folks – great parents, fantastic wife, one brother, one sister, my share of in-laws, nieces and nephews, all my grandparents, aunts and uncles, tons of first, second, third cousins – and I love how the Internet age makes staying in touch a bit easier. But I also work to show some compassion and support for non-relatives that are close to me, like godchildren, youth I’ve mentored, my mentors from past jobs or at church. Why would I want to limit the love to a small group?!?
Thinking about making an impact within your family is complicated. It changes as you grow up from being a group that builds you, to one you have a role in building. Relationships are dynamic – that cousin you were so close with as a little kid now lives far away, or you just don’t share interests anymore. I think this is the hardest category to do well but has the most potential for impact, good or bad. Your challenge is to figure out the role you play and how to use your strengths to support your family members as they build their own woodpiles.
A VOCATION IS MORE THAN A JOB
Vocation (n): 1. a particular occupation, business, or profession; calling. 2. a strong impulse or inclination to follow a particular activity or career. (dictionary.com)
What the dictionary definition is hinting at is a way to make a living that is more than punching a clock – it’s about the dignity we put behind the labor we do because of our personal passion. Yeah, we’ve all had jobs that were a grind. Boss is a hassle. The hours leak all over the place. But even with all that, you need to find a value in what you do that improves the people around you, your organization, and yourself. If nothing else, start with lifting up the folks you see on the job, every day!
Hopefully you’ve got a job that you love doing; your vocational calling. Even if it isn’t there yet, practice! Treat every job like it is your vocation, both in how you work with others and how you put yourself into the work and the rest will come, whether in this job or the next.
This is an incredibly broad category meant for when you reach outside of your family and job to impact a broader group of people. Well, let’s be honest, it doesn’t have to be just people! Maybe you volunteer for the Humane Society? That reminds me, I’ll have to introduce you to our “pound puppies” sometime (see the picture on the last post).
Anyway, making a community impact is when you give of your human and financial resources to make a difference for people you probably don’t even know. It can be volunteering in a youth mentoring organization, or greeting visitors at a hospital. Maybe you help serve donuts after church, or write a check to help survivors of a natural disaster.
Typically making a community impact involves joining forces with others in some sort of organization. It could be an existing non-profit charity, or maybe you get a group of folks together to organize some new toy drive or fundraising event. One of my favorites is being a part of a community club, like Rotary. It allows me to get to know a whole bunch of like-minded people – and we have lots of flexibility and resources to impact whatever community issue moves us.
HOW DO YOU CHOOSE?
Every one of us has opportunities to make an impact in each of these three areas. It doesn’t mean that we are going to be a natural game-changer for each of them – I myself am naturally drawn to the Community Impact area, volunteering across a number of different activities that I think are important for my town.
BUT, for the sake of your woodpile, it’s important to be deliberate in how you give back across all three areas. Do what you can in the areas you feel comfortable or skilled. Then pick out something, no matter how small, that you can do in the category where you aren’t a smokin’ genius. Because I guarantee, pushing yourself in that area is where you are going to get the most growth, both for yourself and your woodpile.
What’s your best area, and why? What have you done to make an impact in your weakest area? Let us know in the comments below!