2012 Resolution #3 – Perform 200 Hours of Community Service

For the rest of this week, I’m going to discuss the goals I’m setting for 2012 and the plans I have for achieving them.

Every single time I engage in some form of community service, I feel extremely happy about what I’ve done. I feel like I’ve caused some sort of positive change in my community and made someone else’s life better.

The problem is that it’s incredibly easy for me to put aside some of the things I could do related to community service and instead do other things. I could head over to the food pantry… or I could make chop all of the vegetables for a great ratatouille. I could pack up the children and help remove snow for elderly people… or I could go inside, make some hot chocolate, and watch The Incredibles with my kids.

Although the “right” choice here is very fulfilling, it’s often hard to do in the face of temptation.

This year, I’m simply striving to make the “right” choice more of a routine.

What areas am I focusing on?

I hope to spend some time helping a couple local food pantries with odds and ends that need done, such as restocking shelves and preparing bags.

In the winter, I’m going to pack up a shovel and do some volunteer snow removal where it’s needed.

In the spring and summer and fall, I’m going to do some volunteer work for the local parks and recreation department.

There are also a couple local charity groups that have some computer needs that I can help fulfill, so that their normal workflow can go much more smoothly.

What I’m essentially committing to is about four hours per week – on average – of such volunteer work, with a couple weeks for travel and the like.

I’ll be keeping track of this time in a spreadsheet, just so that I know I’m keeping pace with this goal. If our winter turns snowy, it’s likely that I’ll get significantly ahead earlier in the year. This does provide some breathing room for periods in the summer when there are reduced opportunities and different time constraints.

Why do this? Volunteer work makes a better community, and a better community makes a better life for those who live in it. It also leaves me feeling better about myself every time I do it. That’s reason enough for me.

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22 thoughts on “2012 Resolution #3 – Perform 200 Hours of Community Service

  1. kc says:

    Certainly a laudable goal, but the post’s title makes it sound like a sentence!

  2. Vanessa says:

    LOL @ kc. I was thinking the exact same thing!

  3. Steve says:

    Hopefully, your remaining resolutions won’t be too time intensive. So far, we have losing weight through more exercise, writing not one but two novels and spending 4 hours a week on Community Service.

    I guess it depends on how quickly you can write and how many pages your novels are going to be but it sounds to me like your committing to at least 12-15 hours a week doing things that you are not doing now. I know I couldn’t find that sort of time without burning out (or working part-time, I guess).

  4. Steven says:

    But if his next goal ISN’T to read 150 books this year, he’ll probably have more than enough time to do it all. I’m still waiting to see what else is coming down the pipe.

  5. Nick says:

    #4 coming tomorrow: Use the word “simply” only once per post.

    Just kidding Trent. I like these resolutions actually. Even if you only half succeed at all of them, that’s still really awesome. Write one book. Lose 25 pounds. 100 hours of service… good stuff.

  6. lurker carl says:

    Going from couch potato to manual laborer in one step often ends painfully, your recent track record isn’t good. Don’t start shoveling snow until you are well into your new fitness program. Pack the snowblower instead.

  7. lurker carl says:

    Speaking of community service, spend some time helping on-line community. Add a few minutes of time on moderating comments. Considering what got through the filter several weeks ago versus my benign drivel that goes into moderation pergatory, human intervention is needed.

  8. AnnJo says:

    Trent’s day job is writing a blog on personal finance that has probably helped dozens if not hundreds of people to improve their lives, at zero cost to themselves. If that’s not community service, I don’t know what is. Most people’s day jobs exist because the community needs them.

    The notion that only performing uncompensated service is of meaningful help to the community has always seemed to me some kind of a con job. The motive behind a service (a paycheck vs. “ommunity service”) may or may not help you get into Heaven, but it is completely irrelevant to the recipient of the service.

  9. K says:

    I think a better goal would be to do one thing to give back to the community each week, rather than a certain number of hours. I also cringed when you said that making hot chocolate and watching a movie with your kids was not the “right” choice. Giving back is great, but it is possible to serve others so much that you neglect time with your family.

  10. Roberta says:

    Or take the older children with you to the work locations (when appropriate, of course) so that they can help as well. Spending time with you while working together on a community project has many benefits. Even young children can help shovel snow, clean up the public park, or fill bags in a food pantry. You get the time with them and demonstrate some of your value system at the same time.

  11. Kate says:

    When children get into public school, it gets easier and easier to chalk up many volunteer hours, particularly if a parent doesn’t work during the day.

  12. Kate says:

    I should have added this to my #11 post: …or has a flexible work schedule.

  13. Johanna says:

    So, in the world according to AnnJo, government services should be replaced by charity, and now charity should be replaced by paid service.

    Suddenly it all becomes clear.

  14. Gretchen says:

    Hey- shoveling snow can do double duty leaving even more novel writing time!

    I also was surprised by the movie and hot chocolate being be “wrong” choice.

  15. sarah says:

    I must be missing something. Correct me if I’m wrong:

    Trent’s biggest priority based on past posts: His kids (and wife)

    So how does focusing on his biggest priority (hot chocolate and movie with the kiddos) now become a “wrong” choice? And, isn’t making frugal meals at home also a priority? That’s now listed as a “wrong” choice?

    I think Trent’s 2012 Resolutions so far are good goals, but I don’t see how they line up with his stated priorities, or (as others have mentioned) how in the world he’ll have enough hours in the day to accomplish it all.

    Trent – if you are reading this, I would love to see a post on how your priorities influenced your resolution setting for the year, and how you’ve scheduled your time to be able to accomplish it all. I am actually and honestly curious.

  16. Andrew says:

    By setting such a rigid goal, aren’t you neglecting in some fashion the purpose of charitable endeavors: to help other people? Especially by tracking the time spent on a spreadsheet, you are making it more of a mental game –relevant only to yourself. Are you a better person if you “get ahead” of yourself on some arbitrary charitable calendar? If paying attention to your family causes you to miss time at the food bank are you automatically a bad person? That’s what you seem to suggest.

  17. valleycat1 says:

    There are a lot of places, food banks and other charities, that would love to have someone who commits 4 hours a week to their program, usually scheduled in a 2-4 hour block. If I had that extra time available, that’s what I’d do instead of some random what do I not feeling like doing today kind of deal.

    and I agree with the previous poster that if you’re at least 50 lbs overweight and have recently had back or other joint problems, shoveling snow this winter for others may not be the best choice unless you have a snowblower, not a shovel.

  18. Mary says:

    Thank You for your up coming service, last year a man we didn’t know, shoveled my mom’s walk and drive last year before I could get into town to do it. When she yelled to him she wanted to give him something he just walked away and waved.

  19. AnnJo says:

    Johanna, I think you were wiser earlier when you simply acknowledged you don’t understand what I’m talking about. You still don’t.

  20. Joan says:

    Is it just me, or is there more negative comments. Is it the same as the bad apple in a bushel of apples. I think it is great that Trent is sharing his resolutions with us. Trent: Keep up the good work.

  21. Louise says:

    Right on, Joan! Let’s ALL resolve to be more positive and a bit less knit-picky.

  22. Great goal, but I do think 4 hours a week is a bit too high. Maybe you should aim at about 4 hours a month, to make it regular and if you do more great. I think with the weight loss and this, you are setting yourself up for failure. A little too ambitious.

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