This I Believe

Richard - Natick, Massachusetts
Entered on July 28, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65

I believe in Service.

I don’t know how, when or why I learned this, but it’s been something I’ve believed for a very long time. I have always reached out and offered to help my friends and I’ve never wanted or expected help or favors in return.

For years, I said “I believe in civic involvement,” but I didn’t actually show up. I voted, and I wondered: “What can I really do as one individual among 200 million?”

Over the years, I did show up for my friends and loved ones. When they called, I answered. I was involved in various communities, from a gaming club in high school, to my fraternity in college, and into the broader world, various little small groups that I joined over the years. In each case, when someone was needed, I did whatever it was that was needed. I didn’t really call this “service,” but it was in a small way.

Then my daughter was born.

I realized the importance of Service in my life, and that I think that it is important enough to pass on. I didn’t know how to teach her this. I can’t say “Go be in service,” and expect anything to happen. People don’t work that way… At least, I don’t.

I read in the newspaper that the local July 4 Parade Committee needed volunteers. I showed up. I ran for Town Meeting , and while I didn’t win the first time out, I did the second. I joined a local political party Town Committee, and started to meet the various candidates, and realized that they had something to say to me, and that I could say something to them, and have an impact. I chose candidates and stood on street corners, holding signs, and talking with other involved people. I started to get to know some of the movers and shakers in my town.

I read in the newspaper that the Town Moderator was seeking volunteers for appointment to the Finance Committee . As a Town Meeting member, I had heard of the Finance Committee, but didn’t really know anything about it. I sent a letter to the Moderator, volunteering. I told him that I could listen impartially, hear various issues, express an opinion and write tolerably well. I was appointed.

I had no idea what I was getting into. In the springtime, which is when we review the budgets, we meet for about 200 hours over the course of 2 months. That’s in addition to working and spending time with my family.

I stepped up because I believe that, in order to leave this world a better place, I must do something. This is what I can do. I am so impressed when I hear of my neighbor adopting a troubled child, but I can’t do that. I haven’t got it in me. That’s Service, too.

I found out, also, that I get something from Service, and more than just the satisfaction of doing something good. I get to learn more about myself, and grow and develop in ways I never dreamed. I am a better person for stepping up.

But in the end, while I can’t stop pollution or war, I do leave the world a better place. From the least, when someone sees me and says “Thank you for thinking about that,” to the most, where my neighbors and friends are safer and the children of my town get a better education; the world is a better place today than it was yesterday. For that I am very grateful.