As an adult, a normal thing to do is to make conversation about your career. When meeting someone who asks what I do, more than once I have heard the response, “Oh, I could never do that. You see and hear all these hard things all the time. I don’t know how you do it.”
There is a seed of truth to that. I do hear difficult things, but I also hear of incredible strength and progress. There is the need for boundaries, for sure, in the line of work I do. Over time, I have learned how to leave the hardships of our patients at work, go home and relax with my family, and pick back up the next day at the office. After all, there really isn’t much I can do to solve our patients’ challenges from my living room. That separation has taken some practice over my years in nonprofit work.
The Misconception About Nonprofit Work
However, I think that there is a big misconception about nonprofit work. Most people understand that we are generally passionate about the cause we dedicate ourselves to. Yes, we probably would make more money working in the for-profit sector. Yes, we usually do like our jobs and co-workers and don’t mind when Monday morning rolls around each week. But what people sometimes misperceive is that we are some sort of special miracle workers. Let me assure you, we are not. Jesus Christ performed miracles. We in the social service sector have learned to be good listeners and provide practical helps along the way.
You see, most of the time my job isn’t about one giant grand gesture. It isn’t about my having all the answers or a quick fix. Mostly, my job is about coming alongside people so they don’t feel so alone and showing them love and compassion. Mother Teresa said, “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” Isn’t that what truly caring about people is? Many small gestures that show people they matter and instills dignity.
If you don’t take the lead to meet the need, who will?
In a fast-paced society, it can be easy to assume that someone else will take the lead in meeting a need or would be better equipped to meet a need. I am here to challenge that thinking. Yes, there are times that specific skill sets are needed. For example, no one here at the clinic wants me trying to diagnose or treat medical conditions. However, many needs don’t fall into a category of needing such special skills. (Although, if you have areas of gifting or expertise, it is such a blessing to share those with the community).
Perhaps someone just needs your time and a listening ear, so he or she can process a problem. Someone struggling with an illness would appreciate the thoughtfulness of a delivered meal or a gift card to pick up dinner. An elderly neighbor would be so grateful for a ride to the store. Simple. Thoughtful. Small, everyday acts of kindness.
Take the leap and do one small thing with great love for our neighbors
If you wait and wait until you are ready to contribute in some great way, most of us would wait our entire lives without ever taking action. So put yourself out there. Make a small gesture of kindness, and do it with great love. See the impact a small thing can have. Then do another small thing. Then another.
In a broken world where violence and bad news make the daily headlines, may we be sources of hope and love for our community. May we not let fear hold us back from reaching out. And may our small acts done in great love have a ripple effect of impact.