When I counsel people who are about to jump into a career or “the real world” experience for the first time, no matter the circumstances, one concern always comes up…they want to know what to do with their time in between filling out job applications and lining up interviews. If the process of securing employment takes more than a few weeks, restlessness and doubt quickly set in.
The advice I give is always the same. Some people are more receptive to it than others, but I akin it to the principles of reaping and sowing. Hey, you want someone to invest in you and give you a chance to prove yourself? You want a secure job situation with a living wage and benefits? You want to do something that you would be proud to talk about amongst family and friends?
It’s natural to want to be of use and wake up with a purpose every single day. But, where do you start? Simple: sow your most valuable asset while you are in transition: YOURSELF. You probably have an eyebrow raised right now, but believe me, your giving will be your gain. Besides, who said that going out and getting a paycheck is the only way to be of value?
I get it. You have bills to pay. We all do. So if you have to work part-time at your local coffee house to pay the rent or fold sweaters at the mall department store, there is no shame in that. The shame would be rushing through those experiences begrudgingly, while missing the opportunity to add substance to your life. So back to my solid advice…while you are working that necessary, but meaningless job – SOW YOURSELF!
What does that mean? It means that you should purpose to give of yourself in a way that is genuine and allows you to be a part of something bigger than your problem of the moment. Put your skills to work with the sole focus on helping others and see what happens!
The possibilities are endless:
- Tutor kids at a local school, community center or after school program
- Ask your church office if they need help cleaning, organizing, filing or need assistance with any special projects (ministries usually have so much to do and not enough man power or money to do it)
- Cook/serve dinner at a local shelter or soup kitchen
- Organize and package food for your local food pantry
- Organize a group of friends/family to clean up and/or fix up a local park or playground
- Volunteer as a sitter for a family member/friend who needs a break
- Donate your time at the local children’s hospital, pediatric cancer center or Ronald McDonald House
- If you can sing or play an instrument, perform at a nursing home or children’s hospital
- Create and send inspiration cards or notes to a local nursing home or shelter
- Become a mentor
- Lend your time to an elderly family member or friend who may need help around the house or running errands
When we step outside of ourselves to serve others, a few things happen: 1.) The mountain of problems we have, miraculously shrinks and seems more manageable or less critical in comparison. 2.) We learn more about the inner part of our spirit – what motivates us, where our strength comes from and how we relate to others. 3.) We grow in love and patience for humanity. 4.) The experience impacts our dreams for the future; family goals, career direction, financial goals, wants and priorities.
The truth is, if you’re waiting to have it all together to contribute to society, you may never do it. We all think that once we have the right kind of job, making the right amount of money, driving the best car and living in our dream home that we will give back in some way. Many people do – they write a check, put it in an envelope and send it off to work on their behalf. But there is no service in that. It doesn’t require your faith or sacrifice. Go sow of yourself while you are uncertain, feel stagnant and not sure where to go next. Do it while you don’t have it all figured out and need direction. Take your broken, depressed and tired self somewhere and offer it up to the people who will be glad to have it and put it to use.
If you can get up and go somewhere with a smile on your face and work hard with no financial benefit, imagine how much more faithful and effective you will be when your time to shine comes!
He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much (Luke 16:10)