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Fill one bucket

| Monday, April 23, 2018

The world is full of do-gooders. I consider myself one, and I’m sure you are too.

But we need more than just spontaneous do-gooders and volunteers. We need consistency. We need to claim our own cause — and we really only need one.

I say this, because I have excelled at the opposite. I have filled my life and resume with spontaneous volunteer experiences — whatever sounds interesting in the moment. I have spent time at bingo, the soup kitchen, Special Olympics, nursing homes and more. Although I felt like I had learned a lot from each experience, I hardly ever returned. If my time was comparable to cups of water, it was comparable to spreading 10 cups of water across 10 buckets. I signed up, attended, and left thinking it was enough and my worldview had improved. Once a place asked for any semblance of consistency, I knew I wouldn’t be returning.

Then I met Tim while volunteering at a soup kitchen.

My friendship with Tim flourished from the first time we met. What started as small talk over a meal quickly evolved into deeper conversation about life. I assumed the encounter was passing, but the next week we saw each other again, and this time I met his daughter Elizabeth. If I wasn’t mistaken, Tim and I were becoming friends.

I wanted to keep running into Tim, knowing that each week me met, the more I would learn about him. Because this was the start of a friendship, and good friends continue to show up. And really, the only way I was going to know what happened to him was to show up again.

The fact that I had met him in a soup kitchen should not change that.

I decided to return each week, to better know Tim, and the soup kitchen. I wanted to learn about the soup kitchen’s resources, ways they were improving, how I could help … At that moment, I decided to fill this one bucket, the soup kitchen, with all 10 cups of my “water” — my time and energy.

These individuals deserve a team of people who put them first — a family. These deserve people who know them, who know their names, and have true roots. The people who have the least stability in all areas — food, housing, money — can benefit from the social networking and just stable friendships in general.

The cause needs us — young people ready to use our interdisciplinary educations. We have so much potential to initiate improvement within our select cause.

And finally, we need a cause, the chance to grow with some underlying do-good direction.

The world needs experts. The soup kitchen probably won’t be your area of expertise, but I hope you find one that fits you. We can’t be experts in everything, but if each of us becomes an expert in one, we can stand out among our friends as a ready advocate.

So finally, I’m providing a call to action.

Become a specialist, a representative for your cause. Take ownership, build relationships, and as a result become consistent. And do things to learn the ins and outs of your cause — the personal scale, the local scale, the international scale. Be the friend in your group that people point to when someone has a question about an issue.

I’m so grateful I have experienced so many ways to volunteer since getting to Notre Dame. But I’m especially grateful for the causes I can call my own.

Elizabeth Cichon


April 19

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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