“Balancing personal obligations and giving back, after all we are merely mortals!”

Our lives are getting busier with each passing decade especially for the sandwich generation. In our late thirties and early forties, we find ourselves struggling to balance our kids, our extended family, our relationship with our spouses or significant others, and our careers. There is not much time for anything else. How does one consider allocating time to giving back even when the heart yearns for it? Balancing the personal obligations and giving back can be a daunting task. Most of us feel the duty to contribute to our community and help those in need. 

My daughters were eight and six when I took my very first six days long trip to Belize alone. It was an incredible experience serving patients who came to see me from far and away, waiting hours to be treated. Yet, they wore a smile of gratitude. Exciting as it was while I was busy in the clinic, I felt guilty leaving my two daughters at home with my wife who in addition to her full-time job, took care of all their needs. I missed them. I wondered if I was doing the right thing by leaving them for that many days. Upon returning home, I had a long conversation with my wife about my conflict. Her answer, ‘It is not about the quantity, it is about the quality of time you spend with us. You are going away for a few days to serve the needs of most in need will eventually help the girls learn about giving back to their communities.” Since then, I have travelled abroad many times a year and when the girls were a little older, I started bringing my whole family along with me on some of these trips. They worked either at the local orphanages or in the outreach eye clinics. 

The most important advice I will give to anyone new to this, is not to feel guilty at all. Our priority is our family. Once you decide to embark on this journey, learn to prioritize. It is important to identify what is most important to you and allocate time accordingly. As described in the last paragraph one way to balance personal obligations and giving back to the community is to involve your family and friends. By involving those closest to you, you can make community service a fun and enjoyable experience for everyone. For example, you could organize a family volunteer day where you and your loved ones spend time together while helping those in need. This can not only help you fulfill your personal obligations but also strengthen your relationships and create lasting memories.

It is also important to be realistic about the time and resources you have available for community service. While it is admirable to want to give back as much as possible, it is also important to avoid overcommitting yourself. This can lead to burnout and may cause you to neglect your personal obligations. Instead, start small and gradually increase your involvement.

Volunteer at a local charity that allows children to participate: Many charities and nonprofit organizations welcome families with young children to volunteer. You can look for opportunities that are age-appropriate and involve activities that children can participate in, such as sorting donations, making crafts for a cause, or participating in a community clean-up event. Donate to a local charity: If you are unable to volunteer with your children, you can still involve them in charitable giving by donating to a local charity. You can explain to them where the money is going and how it will help those in need. Participate in a fundraising event: Many charities and nonprofit organizations hold fundraising events that families can participate in together. This could include a walkathon, a bike ride, or a charity run. Getting involved in these events can be a fun way to give back while also spending quality time with your children.

Incorporate your personal interests and skills into your community service. For example, if you enjoy cooking, you could volunteer at a local soup kitchen or donate meals to a homeless shelter. If you are skilled in a particular trade, you could offer your services to a local charity or nonprofit organization. By incorporating your personal interests and skills into your community service, you can make a meaningful impact while also enjoying the experience.

Balancing personal obligations and giving back to the community requires careful planning and prioritization. By setting aside specific times for community service, involving our families and friends, being realistic about our time and resources, and incorporating our personal interests and skills, we can fulfill our personal obligations while also making a positive impact on the community. Remember, giving back is not only beneficial to those in need but also to our own personal growth and development. “Giving is living.”