Experience Social Responsibility

A Call to Service

“Hope is a doing thing.”

These five words are scrawled in a tattered journal kept by my Mother. She was a pretty amazing lady. Yes for all the well-she’s-my-Mom-reasons, but I’ve realized as I’m older, more for all the things she gave to people who were not her children.

“We are made for service.”

This appears on another page in the journal in her familiar script, and is a verse taken from a song she’d sing: “We are made for service, to care for each other.” Between her church, our schools, sports, community groups, food banks, Christmas funds, the Legion and a list of charities my arm long, my Mother must have given tens of thousands of service hours in her life.

1978 with Shawna @ gramma's

Reflecting on all her contributions in the lead-up to Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, I’m feeling like a bit of an inadequate lump. And my lack of children who might drag me to become a Brownie leader is not really an excuse.

In the preamble to January 20th, I’ve been agonizing about who to serve, what to give and how to contribute on this day, when my employer gives us a day to get out, and give back. What could I do that meant something to me, maybe had a wonderful tie-in to my employer’s area of work in the event industry and, of course, provided someone else with a benefit they need. The search for my perfect service project was tying me in knots.

So I tossed up my hands and shut it down for a while, hoping the universe might magically provide the answer. Awhile later when the universe did not seem to oblige me, I turned to the master of service: Mom and her old journal. I browsed through the pages, and I started doing what Mom would do: listening to what was going on around her, an ear always tuned to a simple request for help.

“I am only one, but I am someone. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. What I can do, I ought to do. What I ought to do, by the grace of God, I will do.”

So with Mom’s written whisper in my ear I set out to stop thinking so much about crossing my service “to do” item off my list in a perfect-fit way, and just opened my ears and listened a little. And lo and behold: service came calling. It arrived in the form of a Facebook request from a university friend seeking help to build a Literacy Library for Love and Hope Center in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Arnica Rowan and her family are traveling to Ethiopia in a few weeks and will visit the Center, which provides life-enriching services for 70 kids. Arnica has secured a heavily discounted offer from Scholastic to buy readers to help tutor the children in English, which will increase their employment prospects.

Love and hope

So the universe has come knocking, and although I can’t do everything, I can do something. So I’ve given and am asking if you might consider doing the same, especially if you’ve not had time to undertake your own service project on this Day of Service. Even $10 could go a long way, so please give here. The campaign is active until January 24. The project has received approximately $325 of the $500 targeted through online and offline donations. Arnica will be providing updates on what is able to be provided and plans to share photos of the Center and how the books are used.

Of course, service opportunities don’t stop with this practical request for readers.

Meetings and events provide exceptional opportunities to give service, through fundraising, awareness building, ethical purchasing and practical action. Service-based experiences are particularly enriching when you seek an opportunity that not only moves you and your attendees, but most importantly fills a real need and provides a tangible benefit to the recipient in a respectful way. For more information about the Love and Hope Center and Vulnerable Children Society and to consider how your event could give please visit VulnerableChildren.ca.

“Hope is a doing thing.”

Indeed it is. Thanks Mom.


  1. Wow. Thanks, Shawna’s Mom!
    And thanks, Shawna, for your emphasis on community service projects that ‘fill a real need and provide a tangible benefit to the recipient in a respectful way,’ in addition to (and much more importantly than) leaving participants with a good feeling or organizers with another check-mark on their to-do list.
    I’ve heard you talk about events that put a green bow around their operations, rather than really going deep on CSR or sustainability. This post is an antidote to that risk.

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