Beginning where you are and doing what you can with your unique set of skills is critical. Last year my partner and I made a trip to Uganda where we spent about five weeks doing pro bono work for an organization that has helped thousands of women raise themselves out of poverty. When we returned home we experienced a bit of a funk, as we were back at home without that deep sense of purpose that we had every day in Uganda. Then one day we stopped at a stoplight where a homeless man was begging for money. He looked as poor and as dejected as many of those we had seen in Uganda.
“What a shame we had to go all that way to Uganda to help people,” my partner said. “We should do something right here where we live.”
Often we think we have to go to some distant place to step up when the opportunity is sitting right in front of us. Over the next several months, with our eyes open now, we started noticing the punishing poverty and hopelessness within blocks of our home. We adopted a homeless man by becoming his main supplier for recyclable products that he could take for refunds. I offered my consulting services for free to an organization four blocks from my home that does extensive work with homeless people and wound up joining the board.
Sometimes to step up we must put aside visions of some larger work to start acting right where we are now. A young man in his early 20s wrote an e-mail to Rex Weyler after reading about how he and others had helped stop the whale hunt. Attracted to the sense of adventure and purpose in the whale campaign, the young idealist told Weyler that he wanted to do something big like that and help save the planet. Rex wrote him back, saying that it was great to want to do something big, but that he should start by finding something he could do right in his own neighbourhood.
At first the young man seemed discouraged by the idea, but some months later the young man wrote back. After receiving the advice to look in his own backyard, he noticed that on recycling day, few houses in his neighbourhood recycled very much. So he put together a simple flier showing what a difference recycling makes, he went out and got scores of blue bins, and then he went door to door to win his neighbours to recycling. By the end of just a few weeks’ work, almost every house in his neighbourhood had full blue boxes outside. He stepped up right where he was with the gifts he had. Most of all, he realized that stepping up right where he was planted had produced immediate results.
Excerpted from Stepping Up: How Taking Responsibility Changes Everything, Copyright @ 2012 by John Izzo, PhD. Reprinted with permission of Berrett-Koehler Publishers, San Francisco, CA. www.bkconnection.com
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