I doubt there are many who disagree with legendary crooner Andy Williams that “This is the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”
The holiday season affords an opportunity to recharge our batteries, spend time with family and friends, share gifts with loved ones, and give thanks for the many blessings received. Smiles are aplenty, laughter abounds and goodwill spreads. But for all of the joy, there is sadness as well. The holiday season is but a brief respite for those who suffer from health issues, loneliness, job loss, divorce, death of a loved one, and more.
While sharing presents is admirable, the truth is the best gift we can give to those who are struggling in some form or fashion is our time. A regular telephone call, a morning cup of coffee, a night out at the movies or a home visit. The warmth of a hug, our rapt attention or a kind comment can be just what the doctored ordered.
I’m embarrassed to admit that, in my younger days, I did not share my time with others in near proportion to the good that was given to me – there was always something else that I had to do. Sure, there were activities for which I volunteered and causes for which I donated. But looking back, I realize I could have done more. I say this not because I did not want to help, but rather because I did not realize how important it was to share my time. I did not understand the severity of despair for those who are lonely, hurting or sick. I also did not comprehend the positive impact my giving would have on me.
In no way do I want to be a fuddy-duddy or be seen as a curmudgeon. But while our society has benefited from innovation, I wonder if we have given up too much. Sure, I can text you until my fingers fall off, but is that as rich an experience as a morning chat at the neighborhood coffee shop? I can email a person sitting in the next cubicle, but is that as effective as my getting up and talking face-to-face? Heck, the remote garage door opener means I can go weeks without talking to my neighbor.
My answer was to become more aware and create a structure that forced (in the positive sense) me to share my time with others. I signed up for volunteer duties with my church, became a job club advisor where I meet with those who are looking for employment, and participate in a mentorship program for high school students.
This column is not about me. I use myself as an example only because I have seen first-hand the amazing impact the giving of one’s time has on both parties. I am sure many of you who are already engaged as volunteers have experienced the feeling. I have been blessed to receive other’s time for my benefit and warmed by the reaction of others thankful to have someone listen. I marvel at what others do with little fanfare, especially those in the time-intensive turf industry, including superintendent Steve Cook and the Make-A-Wish Foundation, superintendent Bill Rohret and the Special Olympics, and those who operate and support the Wee One Foundation. [Editor’s Note: Project EverGreen’s Healthy Turf. Healthy Kids. initiative is another great organization dedicated to promoting the value of preserving and revitalizing managed green spaces, including sports fields and parks.] They are the true heroes in my eyes.
I know New Year’s resolutions are hard to keep. I know life gets in the way at times. But I encourage you to establish a structure that puts you in a position to give time to others. It is the best and the most valuable gift you can give.
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in Superintendent magazine.