I wasn’t raised by parents who pushed the idea, but they didn’t oppose it, either. I was always given the liberty to make my own path in life. I was well-rounded by the dynamics in my family, and securely cared for both financially and emotionally. I can’t say I was overcompensating for anything I lacked.
It was along my journey through college that I realized I wasn’t always financially compensated for the work I truly liked to do.
As any good Samaritan knows, giving charity to others is often a job that is rewarded only by a windfall of good feelings, and certainly not financial gain. As I matured and grew, I realized that I will never be rich in money, as long as I keep tugging toward that social-service career platform.
It was at the dreadful end of college that I had to make some of these decisions: Do I go out to corporate America and seek financial security, or do I follow my dream and save the world?
In a cloud I lovingly refer to as my 20s, I dabbled in multiple career paths. Some were more financially stable, and others involved my passion of working with children and their families.
Once my 30s hit, everything changed. My priorities shifted, and life started to become more serious for me.
I became passionate about going out of the country to serve and teach families English as a second language. Next thing I knew, I was teaching in a border town in Mexico. That was when my life changed significantly.
During the course of my time in Mexico, I learned how absolutely crippled the country is at protecting children and families. Many times, I knew of abuse, but there was no one to report it to, because a good deal of the country’s culture is trained to think of it as a private domestic issue.
I vowed that when I returned home, I would work tirelessly so that no child or woman would ever be neglected or bypassed because of family situation.
My identity began to shape itself around my own desires to change the world. I wanted to feel needed and to feel that I had a place. I wanted to feel as if I can make a difference. I know my motives are selfish, but the good far exceeds the bad.
I am no saint in this life, but I am sure that when I volunteer, it is because I want to live in a community where we all thrive and prosper. I look around and I see so many people suffering in extraordinary circumstances.
Volunteer work creates social networks among people, who are then able to support one another through difficult times.
When I reach out and talk to people in need, I realize that we are all one decision away from being homeless or severely damaged. I am grateful that I am able to help someone who needs a hand up, so I do it.
The bottom line is — if you can help someone, do it. Don’t let the world pass you by, knowing you can make a difference.
I’m not afraid to admit that I love being one of those people who doesn’t sit by and let things happen. I want to be part of the action.
My volunteer work is who I have created myself to be. It will be my legacy when I am gone.
• Lori K. Souza has lived in Tracy more than 20 years and is a family service worker at Head Start and a member of Grace Church. She can be reached by sending comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.