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The gift of time

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give,” Winston Churchill once remarked. While few would dispute this sentiment, actually finding time to give can be quite a challenge.  Here are a few thoughts about giving your time, to be a better friend or to contribute more effectively to specific causes:

Where to find the time:

As the giver of time, you have the right to choose exactly how much you will contribute and when. Keep your commitment manageable and don’t worry too much about other people’s expectations. When it comes to re-purposing chunks of your time, it may be easiest to start with low-stress hours that are taken up by chores or entertainment. Don’t let anyone talk (or guilt-trip) you into giving hours that affect your work or cause stress in other areas of life. The more balance you can find between your own schedule and volunteer hours, the better. For example, it is more than acceptable to plan around commuter traffic and other busy times of the day – the point is not to make a “sacrifice,” but to freely offer your time as a gift. None of this means putting yourself last with an air of martyrdom.

Time quality:

Whether you’re spending more time with friends or serving on a board, quality matters more than volume. You won’t make a particularly good friend or volunteer if your mind is on something else, and a few minutes of undivided attention are worth more than hours of meaningless small talk.

Don’t lose sight of the fact that you’re giving something precious. While your gift shouldn’t come with explicit strings attached, it is perfectly reasonable to expect some form of acknowledgment. For example, if you found out that a charitable organization had been squandering donations, you’d  have little reason to give them any more money. Your gift of time isn’t any different: Don’t stick around waiting for “things to get better” if your contributions are not met with respect and appreciation. There is nothing “selfish” or “unkind” about avoiding negativity, drama or conflict in your free time.

Make it count:

Choosing to give your time means “expanding the space [to] achieve the future we want.” The deliberate act of sharing makes us the citizens, friends, and helpers that turn a small, separated world into a community.

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