YOUNG VOICES: How much are you giving to favorite charities?

2014-01-06T00:00:00Z YOUNG VOICES: How much are you giving to favorite charities?By Wendy Banta-Long nwitimes.com
January 06, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Ahhh. The flurries of Christmas are over and one can breathe relief, relax, and begin preparing for 2014. It's 2014 already. Where did time fly? More importantly, how did time fly?

Reflecting on last year’s experiences, I am proud of my schoolwork, swimming and music, but not of giving. Family and friends' birthdays passed, and I gave gifts to them, but I struggled with giving to charity.

During Christmas break, I began reading John Grisham’s "The Street Lawyer." Opening the novel, a hostage scene occurs in a law firm. However, the terrorist only asks the litigators how much they gave to shelters, food pantries and clinics. Although they gave some money to organizations, none of the captives gave directly to the homeless even though their salaries added to roughly $3 million.

Did I really need an iTunes card, an iPhone, more chocolate and cookies this year? I know I cannot control gifts given to me (I am very grateful for them), but when had my values shifted? Caught up in materialistic desires, I forgot a single Christmas feast might complete a homeless person’s wish. More food, that’s all they ask for, and there I lounged, gorging on desserts, hoping for good presents.

As 2014 quickly runs past, we should remember human compassion and actively volunteer time to those who have less. This allows us to experience the difficulties of life and the effects of improvement.

I am going to make a better effort. Feeling obligated to save the world is far-fetched, but whether we spend time helping a global organization or local one, be active. Money is important, but that has become an easy outlet in many cases. Putting forth labor counts more for us and others, proving the volunteering comes from the heart and not guilt.

During 2013, attending my church’s youth group was not a priority. This led to missing out on meeting new people and great volunteering opportunities.

As a National Honors Society member, I need to acquire volunteering points to be recognized at graduation. This system acts as a payment for volunteering, violating what volunteer work stands for, and later stimulating guilt. Instead of focusing on those negatives, I search for a new perspective regarding NHS. I plan to continue volunteering even when I have reached my minimum points. I want to make that stronger effort of working at shelters or food pantries.

I will complete my NHS responsibility, viewing the point system not as a payment for volunteering, but as a measurement of how much benefit I contributed to others.

This year not only brings a fresh start, but also an opportunity to improve old habits and make a difference for other people and us. Happy New Year!

Wendy Banta-Long, of Chesterton, is a senior at Chesterton High School. The opinions are the writer's.

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