Two decades ago, I met a man in Virginia who had, I thought, the perfect job. Sam Perry was the public relations director for the Southside Electric Cooperative in Chase City, Va.
His job, best I could tell, was to join things. It didn’t matter what. He could be a member of the local Lions Club. He could be on the chamber of commerce board of directors. And, he got to do those things throughout the territory his electric cooperative served.
He seemed pretty good at it, too. As the local newspaper reporter in Chase City at the time, every time I turned around, Sam was at this event, or helping with that function. His life, it seemed, was about helping other people.
Pretty cool, I thought. And, based on nothing more scientific than the way he dressed and the really nice car he drove, it seemed he was paid pretty well for his work.
I’ve never managed to land a job where I got paid for doing stuff for other groups. But I’ve found the next best thing: I volunteer. I’ve had the chance to volunteer in schools doing everything from proctoring exams to teaching high school journalists. Those things take up time from the work I’m paid to do, so sometimes I work after hours to do whatever needs to get done.
But it’s worth it.
I also volunteer through Rotary, my civic club, and recently, I had the chance to visit several elementary schools to give away books to the school library paid for by Rotarians and a grant our club received. It was fun to visit with the children who will be reading these books for the next several years. It was also rewarding simply for the fact that I got to do something for someone else without getting anything more than a “thank you” in return.
There are those who believe their time and talents are so valuable they would not consider doing something without compensation. And the truth is, they probably are pretty good at whatever it is they do.
But I would argue they are missing out on one of the fun things in life. It’s rewarding to stand at the exit of a bank drive-through lane with a white cane and solicit money for the blind through the Lions Club. It’s exciting to see children pick up a book and start reading it before it even hits the library book shelf. It is a true blessing to stand in front of a room full of people and give a high school senior a check to help them cover the costs of college.
Whatever the moment, no matter the event, there is a real rush of adrenaline to be part of things like that. It’s a big part of what makes it good to wake up each morning and greet a new day.
I don’t have Sam Perry’s job, but in a way I’ve got it better. I’ve got a paying gig that I like and on the side, I get to do for others. For no other reason than just to do it.