Taking On The World’s Problems – Or, At Least Pitching In

August 26, 2010 at 7:33 am | Posted in Career Moves, Life and Living | 34 Comments
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Girl Scouts!

There are a few experiences from my childhood that I now recognize as opportunities to support the greater good.  The first was my experience as a Girl Scout (Brownie Troop 1678 represent!).  As a Girl Scout, we did lots of fun activities – we camped, we played games, we held bake sales and of course sold the famous Girl Scout cookies (I was a Samoas fan). I was so young I didn’t know that I was part of a larger movement to empower girls, to expose them to the great outdoors and to the larger world around them.

The second experience that sticks out in my mind was my father’s involvement with the Road Runners Club.  As a member, he ran in 10 marathons in New York City, and countless 5K runs, etc.  He usually raised money for cancer, having lost both parents to it.  His last run was for heart disease, an illness he conquered, but that’s a story for a different day.

I didn’t hear of the phrase “non-profit” until I was older.  I didn’t really know about the millions of people working to solve the world’s problems, until I became one of them.  I’m lucky enough to know this world now, but I know a lot of people still don’t really know it.

I wanted to do more than collect a paycheck from a cause that I worked for and believed in.  I wanted to start giving back.  There are so many problems in the world, but little by little, we can make a dent.  A few years ago, around the time when I got my dog, I found a cause I was truly passionate about.  With all that my dog gives to me, I was compelled to give back.  I have chosen to direct the majority of my support to the ASPCA, an organization that works to protect our pets. There are many organizations that do similar work, but I chose ASPCA because their message is simple, not too extreme, and as a national organization, they have a wide reach.  As I get older, I hope to be able to give more, and perhaps choose a few other worthy causes to regularly support.

What the non-profit world does best is to create a community of hope, from the youngest supporters to the oldest.  Who we donate to often relates directly to a pain we suffered or an inspiring experience.  What we support, what we work to change or improve or advance, defines us and gives us a greater world to live in tomorrow.

What do you do to make the world a better place?


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  1. A person can start to live when he can live outside himself
    Albert Einstein

    Your post reminded me of that quote. Nice work:)

  2. Thanks for this great post. If the world is to change, we all must take responsibility. And women and grils will lead the way. Sorry guys, I simply believe that women and girls are the planets greatest untapped natural resource.

  3. this is a great story! i am glad you understand everything lol and hope girl scouts now will get o the same point u do =)

  4. It’s funny how many ways there are to give back, even in the smallest of ways with the tiniest effort, and yet people still shy away from doing volunteer or charity work, or anything else they think is giving away something for free. Even something like giving blood can help or if you want to get real basic picking up trash you notice not eh sidewalk. People would rather spend ours complaining about as opposed to minutes doing something about it.

  5. People would rather hit “Submit Comment” rather than actually proofreading the comment first.


  6. Personally, I volunteer and donate (both money and blood). I sometimes get frustrated by how fractured even the non-profit community is. The reason they exist is the idea that if we all get together we can do more, but there are so many different organizations that need to take their own advice — get together, do more!


  7. i think its great that you do good things for the world. i hope to one day find a non profit orginaztion that i am to passionate about. I would really enjoy something like that, and know i would want to spend time doing things like that. Its important to try and make i diffrence i feel.

    • You don’t have to look far. Look to your values for guidance, then do some research. There are groups for everything.

  8. You view on this is fantastic! I have gotten my own daughter involved in girl scout for the very reason you describe. A child has to realize of their own accord that service and charity towards another is intrinsic to their own well being.

  9. i think its a great thing you’re doing here; challenging people to give back to the community. great post. the world needs more of these 🙂

  10. Inspiring post! 🙂 I enjoyed it.

    If anyone is interested in finding volunteer opportunities they can visit http://www.volunteermatch.org/ to find their local listings. It’s a cool site. From experience, I can say schools are in need of volunteers too.

  11. Despite having been born and brought up in a third world country, I have had a rather privileged life and since childhood, have been taught to cherish it and never took it for granted. I, personally, and my family together have been giving as much as we can whenever we can. We would donate food and clothing to homes for the old, blind, abandoned, as well as organised medical camps in rural areas where such facilities are lacking, amongst other charitable activities. I have since moved to the UK, and even here have been donating when and where possible. There is a movement called the Big Issue, and their tagline is ‘A hand up not a hand-out’ and I love what they do and stand for and am constantly trying to help out when possible.

    I don’t think it matters whether or not you find a cause to be passionate about, as long as you give whenever and however possible as every little helps and goes a long way. For me, that makes the world a better place. 🙂

  12. It is true that we must all get up and help. Many people think this means giving money but that is far from true. If you are unable to donate for whatever reason, then donate your time or your knowledge. Get a message out as this blogger has done. Congrats on the fresh press! 🙂

  13. Great post. I’ve been donating to MS foundations because (as you point out in your line, “Who we donate to often relates directly to a pain we suffered or an inspiring experience”) my dad was diagnosed with the disease two years ago.
    It’s such an agonizing disease for the afflicted to suffer through, and for the loved ones of the afflicted to watch take over.
    Hoping to find a cure,

  14. interesting story. 🙂 I am doing my part in doing a 5k run with a cause. I hope everyone do a little bit a time to help out with whatever they’re willing to help. I’m sure people love to help each, just that the message never gets across. 🙂 I’m glad you brought this up.

  15. Giving back is really important. And the non-profit world is a good way to give back. Even if it’s just a cent it helps.

  16. Great Post! Inspiring and motivating, it’s good to know people with a golden a heart still exists.

  17. ” We shape our dwellings and then our dwellings shape us”-Churchill

    A quote that is very true…

    Thank you for all you do!


    Be the change:)

  18. good theme

  19. its really interesting post. You know attending medical mission and charitable works really felt good as we all know,a lot of people in the world experiencing poverty and other distress in life. By means of giving back, you’ll inspired a lot of people by sharing what you have and also initiating some free health care provision. Like the fact that we’re born experiencing good lifestyle, maybe its not bad at all to extend help.

  20. I feel very equivocal about charity: not because I don’t want to give freely, or because I don’t think people deserve charity or any reason like that.

    No, I feel equivocal about charity because for me its a bit like…

    Well, say you have a badly ventilated bathroom, and when you shower the whole place steams up, the walls get damp and the paint peels, and before long you’ve got black mould growing on the tile grouting (and everywhere else). One answer is to put in a load of elbow grease, to get stuck in and busy, to clean that mould off and give the walls a fresh lick of paint. But, of course, the first time you turn that shower back on the place will steam up again, and a couple of months later you’ll back to square one.

    See, for me the answer is to install an air vent and let some fresh air in. Some of you would probably argue: “Yeh, but this is an analogy, and in real life it’s not so easy to fix the source of the problem”. And some would probably argue: “It’s an upward stuggle, but that struggle might save a life or two, might gain you two months before you hit square one”. But, I would argue that charity is just an insubstantial lick of paint over that actual problem.

    Not only that, but, as those living in rented houses will know, unscrupulous landlords always give those damp rooms a cheap paint job before letting the house. It’s easier and cheaper than fixing the root problem. So it is that unscrupulous companies and even unscrupulous countries use charity as a cheap and easy veneer for leaving the world as it is (i.e. benefiting them, and keeping the poor in poverty).

    Worse than that, we see countries using charity not only as a veneer, but actually to their own benefit. Thus, governments use charity to get rid of stockpiles of subsidised maize and corn, in the process protecting their own farmers but destroying third world economies. Thus, the IMF lends money to countries as a means of coercing them into economic restructuring and economic agreements that only benefit first world economies (e.g. cash-cropping). In fact, in the recent case of Greece, we see loans being used by the IMF to force a “first world” country to slash its welfare state. Who benefits? International Finance. Who loses out? The Greek working classes who lose their pay; the Greek middle classes who lose their pensions.

    In other words, chairty is constantly being used cynically as yet another means of consolidating economic power, concentrating wealth and in maintaining the status quo. Indeed, it’s charity as welfare that saved Capitalism from collapsing back in the 1930s.

    If you made it this far, you’ll probably see now why I’m suspicious of charity. I could have just written: “Giving a bit of money to keep stray pets of the streets doesn’t necessarily make you a good person”. But, I thought I’d expand.

    One last thing, philosopher Slavoj Zizek speaking on charity in a great little animated lecture by the Royal Society for the Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA):


    It’s a really cool little vid.

    What do you do to make the world a better place? My solution: turn it on its head.

    All best,


    • Thanks for sharing Wit. Interesting input! You certainly have to be weary of the non-profits you associate with. But being on the inside, I can tell you that there are a lot of good non-profits really making change.

      I can understand not donating, but being the one doing the work, you actually see the difference happen and it’s very rewarding for yourself and for those who benefit, and often the world in general. Take a look at these before and after photos from Katrina.. Much of this was made possible by people organized by groups like Habitat for Humanity. There are still good people, and good groups out there.

      • Hey, thanks Dana.

        It’s really great the things some groups do. And a group like Habitat for Humanity is particularly good, in my eyes, in as much as they put the focus on enabling communities to actively make positive changes to their own living conditions.

        But, for me, even these groups are not immune to a certain scepticism. After all, one of the first groups of this kind, JFK’s Peace Corps, effectively functioned as a weapon of “containment” in the Cold War. There is a homology between this kind of Cold War containment and the function of charity in the present day.

        This isn’t to say, “Don’t give” or “Don’t volunteer”. These groups certainly do make a real positive difference, and to save a person’s life, or to help a community rebuild itself – these are of course wonderful things.

        But, the solution we need is a far broader and more active critique of current global social conditions; the conditions that lead to poverty, exploitation and alienation.

        Thanks again for your piece and your reply Dana,

      • I agree with you Dana and your response to Wit’s point. I like that he is being a skeptic as a little skepticism can’t hurt. However, it sounds like he is being a skeptic just to be a skeptic. There is some bad in every sector but that doesn’t mean you throw out the baby with the bath water. Some charities have ulterior motives and some don’t. You can’t just paint all of charity with a broad paint brush. No one, no system, nothing is perfect, so a person shouldn’t decide to be wary of all charity because some charities have issues.


      • Exactly my point, and I don’t think we will ever be able to solve all of the world’s problems. I do try to be realistic. But I know we can make change. It’s not really about solutions. As cheesy as it may sound, it’s about making the world a better place. There’s not reason why it has to be done through a huge organization that may not be trustworthy. Sometimes it just takes the drive and dedication of one person.

        Thanks for the historical perspective, Wit! I think it’s really important that we learn from the past.

  21. As a former Brownie leader and Samoa lover, nice post 🙂
    We have to set the example for our children. They watch what we DO more than what we say.

    Volunteering goes further than learning about non-profits and making donations. It’s about giving.

    I’ve started volunteering in a maximum security prison for men. It has been one of the most surprising and rewarding experiences. These men, who have messed up badly in life, give me hope and inspiration.

    BTW- would you be interested in a review copy of my book, “Raising able: how chores cultivate capable young people.” If so, email me your address – susan at susantordella dot net.

  22. Great Post!

    We can’t solve all of the world’s problems, but I believe each one of us has the opportunity to enrich the lives of others.

    One of my favorite’s is Kiva. Kiva’s mission is to connect people, through lending, and alleviating poverty.

    You choose the person, and once the loan is paid back, you simply pass it on to someone else.

    It’s amazing what little money it takes to start a business in so many parts of the world. My $100 loan has been re-circulated 10 times so far. While we may complain about our problems here in the U.S., women and children around the world are in such deplorable conditions.


  23. Thank you very much my friend, you are very kind in sharing this useful information with? others…. he details were such a blessing, thanks.

  24. This is a great idea and a great post… does your dad still run in marathons? Do you run in any?

    And what area of NY are you from?

    • My dad retired after running one last marathon after his heart attack. I always wanted to run, but never had the discipline. I’m from Bronx/Manhattan area and grew up in the ‘burbs.

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