Giving Back

Most people I know want to give back to their communities in some way. Often that involves volunteering in soup kitchens or participating in fundraising activities for local charities. Two of my closest friends are able to do good for their communities through their jobs, one as a teacher and one as a psyche tech in a medical facility. One small part of my own job connects me with the community through radio interviews with local non-profit organizations. I have received praise and even a couple of awards for that involvement and I’ve been told more than once that those radio shows are the equivalent of volunteering for a charity. I am honored by that sentiment but at this point in my life I want to do something more direct.

Nearly twenty years ago, while lying in a hospital bed temporarily unable to walk, I promised myself that one day I would engage in volunteer work, either for people with mobility issues or as a walker or runner for charity fundraising. After all this time, I finally started what I hope to be an ongoing series of steps toward that goal. Specifically I walked in the Kidney Walk DC.

A thousand walkers gather at the start line along the Potomac River near Georgetown University

I chose this partly because it was an easy beginning and I know several people connected to the local chapter of the National Kidney Foundation. However, a more important reason is that a friend donated a kidney to help save her father’s life many years ago and that act left a significant impression on me. It also turns out that the Washington DC area has the highest rate of kidney failure in the country, so this is a serious local issue.

Raising money for a worthwhile cause certainly feels good but the best feeling for me was the shared experience of doing something physical to help people with some kind of physical challenge. Kidney disease is physically debilitating and life-threatening yet many people survive. Many of those survivors were on hand to tell their story, and then they joined the walk.

My decision to participate and to form a team came late, only two weeks before the event. Although I only recruited one other walker my team raised more than $500. We have great co-workers and friends and the biggest single donation came from the friend who inspired me to walk.

Michelle (Kidney Foundation), me, Francine (event chairperson) and Alisa (the other half of Team Bernie)

I am not writing this to brag, but as a suggestion to do something like this in your own community. I am not a soup kitchen kind of volunteer but walking in an event is perfect for me. There may be something that is just right for you that can help others. There is plenty of validity to the concept of “pay it forward.” I also write this today as a way to publicly hold myself accountable for my goal of more frequent participation in activities like this. Don’t hesitate to remind me.