I have been quite blessed during my life.
I had a good, although short, career as an aeronautical engineer in the United States Air Force.
Then I returned to Illinois and attended medical school, did residency training in Terre Haute, and practiced as a "family doc," in Brazil for many years.
Now, I am retired from the day-to-day grind and receive social security as well as a military retirement check.
I also teach as an adjunct professor of science teaching for American Public University System in order to continue to fulfill my love of teaching -- and to generate just a bit more income.
Because of this income, I no longer need to work. Now, I am able to spend my time volunteering.
I recently read a book by Laura Arrillage-Andreessen named "Giving 2.0 -- Transform Your Giving and Our World."
Ms. A-A said that, "We can create a better world ... perhaps just one person at a time. There is 'extraordinary potential for great change' by volunteering."
She also asked very important questions, "Should we just give money, or can we, instead, give our time and our expertise? We should give what we are skilled in ... what we can really help with. We can and should 'make our giving matter!'"
Yes, I do donate money, but I control exactly where that money goes. Ms. A-A comments that when all we do is give money, we are 'giving in the dark.' We often do not really know what our money will be used for or where it is really going. But when we give of ourselves, we do know who/what we are helping.
I do still give money to worthy projects, but only to ones I either know about personally or ones I have very carefully researched. I support Lalmba, Inc., in Denver ... I worked with them for one year at a medical clinic in far southwestern Ethiopia, and know very, very well where that money goes and who it helps.
I support both the House of Hope, here in Brazil, and First Fruits Mission Bible Center in Illinois, each of which is a Christian faith-based addiction treatment center.
My daughter spent nine months at First Fruits MBC when I returned from South Africa. I love to see how the money I send to the Clay County Food Bank really helps folks! I personally know, admire and respect the folks who started and still work at Serving On The Streets (S.O.S.) here in Brazil.
I also have found a wonderful church here in Brazil that is very "outwardly focused," ... loves to help people outside the church walls. I give them my time and money as well.
I found statistics from the website, www.nationalservice.gov. They showed statistics saying that there was an estimated 26 percent volunteer work rate in adults in 2010. Indiana ranks 25th among all our states -- with a rate of more than 28 percent volunteer (time).
Their statistics say that folks of ages 35-44 volunteer the most, about 33 percent. This rate drops off as we get older ... we "old folks" between 65-74 volunteer at about a 25 percent rate.
That makes very little sense -- when we are older we have much, much more time available to volunteer and help others.
These folks at nationalservice.gov looked at such volunteering as mentoring of youth, tutoring and teaching, participating in fundraising activities, collecting/preparing/distributing/serving food, and giving of "sweat hours," by doing general labor or providing transportation for others.
I want, now, to share several more quotes from Laura A-A's book:
* "For all of us who give, there are moments, people, events and experiences that prompt us to take action, that inspire us to live outside ourselves. When we are so moved, we can no longer stand back passively and watch injustice, cruelty and inequality; we have to do something to make the world better,"
* "I also realized that while forces we cannot control may be ranged against us, they should never stop us from fighting on. What mattered was not achieving the next goal for myself, but making life better for those around me ... whether I knew those people or not," and
* "We give from the heart -- our most powerful engine for action. And we give because it makes us feel good." "Giving feels good!"
Now I pray that each of you reading this discourse has thought more about the benefits of volunteering -- for others and for you. I wish to now share more specifics with you. I hope to answer that inevitable question, "But what can I do?"
Most of you are not in a position that I was a decade or so ago. I was able to spend most of about six or seven years doing long-term (six months to one year) medical volunteer work overseas -- in Haiti, Ethiopia, South Africa, Guatemala and Ecuador. Wow, what a blessing that was for me. That work always made me feel good about what I was able to do.
Who have I been able to help since returning to the U.S. to live again in 2007? It really is quite easy to find groups and/or people to help. I have been blessed to be able to have spent time helping build a house in Brazil for Habitat for Humanity; I spent many hours walking dogs and cleaning animal cages at the Animal Rescue and Adoption Center (the big problem there: I kept coming home with more kittens); school children need lots of help -- I home school my oldest grandson and help tutor elementary school children in spelling/reading/grammar/math/whatever else I can; I mentor a child one hour a week with and for a wonderful group named Kid's Hope USA.
I truly love to give my time and talents to two other local organizations that need and appreciate me giving. Before I started tutoring at a local elementary school, I went each morning to help at the Animal Rescue and Adoption Center, Clay County Humane Society. There was an excellent article in the Oct. 31, Brazil Times, describing how volunteers are needed and used there at the RAC. They are dreadfully underfunded and can only stay open with the assistance of numerous part-time employees, with help from several volunteer workers and with gifts of dog/cat/kitten food and cat litter.
One (of several) of the reasons that the U.S. is falling very quickly far behind the rest of the world economically is the poor condition of our public education system. It is failing ... every one of us should know this and want to help.
I have read, in detail, two recent evaluations of the education of our youth in the world. According to a recent, excellent article in "Time Magazine," the World Economic Forum recently ranked the performances of students in many countries. "The U.S. now sits at the bottom of the industrialized world by most measures of educational achievement." The World Economic Forum ranks the U.S. educational system 26th in the world, well behind those of countries like Germany, Finland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Canada and Singapore. In science and math, we score even worse. Several other prominent surveys show very similar results ... in elementary schools, middle schools and high schools.
Why has this happened? What does the future hold? I know few of you reading this are surprised by these results. But do you really know/understand what is happening in our public school classrooms?
* There are too many students in the classroom. How can a teacher give any individual attention to a student when there are 20-30 others in the room as well?
* Our children spend too few school days in a school year and spend too few hours in a classroom each day. Children in some other industrialized countries attend school 200-220 days per year; they also spend more hours each day in the classroom. Our students only attend for between 180-185 days and so much of that time is completely wasted.
* The standards for education in our country are much, much too low. And
* There is high "burn out" of our best teachers, our caring teachers. There also is overwhelming apathy in many other teachers. This problem is made worse because of the inability of a school district or corporation to get rid of these apathetic teachers because of this "right" to tenure they have, completely independent of their skills or results. But, Lord help us, we know that school administrators must kowtow to such groups as The National Education Association and The American Federation of Teachers ... along with their state affiliates.
None of probably have the individual "power" to affect any change to these problems. (However, each of us must write to our elected politicians and express our own feeling/opinions). But we can and should be willing to help one or two or more students whenever we can. Those of us who are retired have so much time and talent to share with our schools and students. We need a strong "ground swell" of desire to volunteer in these schools and classrooms. It is quite simple ... the administrators will welcome us; the teachers will welcome us; the students love having us there. We, as volunteers, never know what that small seed of education we plant might grow into.
Please give to these school children -- in the elementary schools, middle schools, high schools. I will personally pay for the State of Indiana criminal background check that is needed before you can help in a school. Did you "hear me" ... I will pay $35 for you personally: Dr. Ken Sproul, 7805 N. Crestwood Lane, Brazil, Ind., 47834. E-mail: email@example.com. Phone number: 812-841-9184.
Here are a few Clay County organizations that would welcome volunteers: Our own churches, Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of America, Clay Community School Corporation, Crisis Pregnancy Center, Clay City Women's Ministries, LEAAP Center, Big Brother/Big Sister, Clay County Literacy Coalition, Habitat for Humanity, Serving On The Streets (S.O.S.), just to name a very few.
I want to now end this long discourse with a plea: Please find reasons for volunteering/helping others ... do not just find/make excuses why we can't do it. That is all that so many of us are doing ... making excuses instead of actually helping others.
Discover for yourself, just how good it will feel to volunteer ... to help others. Find out how it will make you feel.