Monday, September 17, 2012

Making a difference, that is what is fun. A metaphor from walking Bonnie this AM

 The idea that BonaResponds is a "weekend job" annoys me.  Yeah the idea of a "job" sort of annoys me, but what is really bugging me is the term "weekend".

Indeed clocks and calendars annoy me in general.  For instance, if I am a finance student from 2:30 to 3:45, does that mean I don't learn at 10:15?  Or if I go to yoga class and learn to be at peace at 6 PM, does it not mean that same peacefulness shouldn't be there at 11:30 on a Wednesday?  Of course not.  Facebook status updates of "only 5 more days til the weekend" etc grate at me. They suggest that the poster can only be happy on the "weekend". 

The same is true with BonaResponds.  Yes BonaResponds is an organization (and a great one at that!) that works almost every weekend, but it is more than that, it is a mindset and a way of life:

A mindset that says

 "I will make the world a bit better not because it is my job, or I get pecuniary benefits, but simply because I can and I get personal enjoyment out of it."

Thus, it is thrilling and rewarding to hear of BonaResponds leaders telling how they help local blood drives, or organize recycling activities, or a beach clean up, or tutor in an after school program on a "weekday".  (Infinitely more thrilling than hearing how they are only coming to volunteer because it is a class requirement).

At any given point of time,  I often have no idea what day it is.  Seriously.  What difference does it make?  Life is pretty simple: Wake up, work/play, eat, sleep.

From this prospective work and play are pretty much the same thing.

Need collaborating evidence?  Jenn who worked on the ramp we helped build in Wellsville this past weekend commented on the picture from the day:  "Fun, fun, fun day".   Is that describing work?  Play?   

Making a difference.  That is what is fun.

 It is true for anything.  Be it teaching the Black-Scholes Option Pricing model, working at the Allegany Park and Shop, or climbing through a flooded basement, I love doing each of them, but only when making a positive difference.  

It is how I TRY to live.  You can come at this via religion ( "Love thy neighbor") or finance (create positive economic value) or psychology (Oxytocin, which is released when helping others, improves personal well being).

This is not some great new break through.  It has been around for thousands of years.  Indeed it is in the bible which was written even before I first learned of the concept of EVA (Economic Value Added) in college.  As in all roads lead to Rome, whatever path you take, you will likely come to the same conclusion:

 Live in a way that you are on net a giver/contributor.  Definite yourself as a positive Net Present Value project and have a positive Economic Value Added.  

This goal is removed from any organization.  Indeed, it holds for all situations.  If as an employee I am earning $10 an hour, I should strive to make $11 an hour for the company.  If a volunteer, I want to make the world better for the person being helped at a rate more than the combined cost of services and opportunity cost of my time to volunteer.

And before I hear from an angry reader who says there is more to life than dollars and cents, let me make myself clear that properly understood economics is about much more than dollars and cents.  You want to be a net contributor to, rather than a draw from, society. 

Which brings us to this morning's walk.  One of the "weekend jobs" BonaResponds frequently does is to do street clean ups.  Thus, I have taken to picking up garbage while out walking Bonnie.

Anyone who knows me knows I am not a "morning person" so when we left the house I had not planned to pick up garbage (and hence had not grabbed a garbage bag).  But early in the walk when I saw a bottle on the curb I picked it up, and then another, and soon my hands were full and there was still quite a walk to do.

As we got a bit further there was a bag in the street.  YES!  I could pick up more garbage. 

Pretty soon the bag was filled to over heaping (it was a small bag).

Oh well, "Better not perfect" (a common BonaResponds mantra) went through my mind.  But wait, just as Bonnie and I turned to finish the walk, a larger bag presented itself wrapped around a bush.

It was a good walk. 


Take what you want from the story, but my three "take-aways" are:

  1. BonaResponds is more than an organization, it is a mindset and a way of life.  
  2. When you want to do something good, start out even if you don't know how you will accomplish it.  Usually what you need just sort of appears as you need it.   
  3. When you are making a difference, even picking up garbage can be fun.
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