1. That’s awesome that you took the time out to volunteer. I have had a couple service jobs over the years, mostly when i was a teenager, in college and grad school and i completely agree. Physical labor sucks!

    At least, you were doing it for a more altruistic purpose. I was just trying to buy the latest video game 🙁

    Thanks for your service

  2. I’m totally with you on the manual labor observation. I worked for a couple of years swinging a sledge hammer on the Alaska Railroad and credit that experience with me finishing school and ultimately becoming a lawyer. I saw what a lifetime of hard labor looks like and decided it didn’t look good on me. Thank goodness there are those who want that life. Imagine how hard it would be if there was no one who wanted that work (I’m trying hard not to make an immigration policy comment here – wrong venue).

    On the issue of giving back, my wife is a teacher at a local high school here in Appalachia and we have a significant poverty problem in our region that often manifests itself as poor nutrition. Our two favorite ways of helping is working to solve that problem (how many backpacks have we filled? Who can count that high?), and the local humane society. Ours is a no-kill shelter and that requires a good bit of money and elbow grease to maintain.

    Thanks Penny, for a thoughtful post.

  3. I’ve had several charities over the years that were favorites of mine, beginning with a homeless shelter that provides education/training for people who need to not only find a place to live, but also to find work to sustain them. More recently, after watching so many natural disasters unfold around the world and here in the U.S., I started donating to the Red Cross. When people are devastated and exhausted, I’m grateful that the Red Cross swoops in immediately and gets to work, providing the basics that people need and making them feel less lost.

    P.S. Penny, I hate to hear you say you’re not doing enough. So often in addition to working and raising children, which is already TWO jobs, women chastise themselves for not “doing more” or for not being able to perfectly juggle an insane schedule. It’s SO much pressure, and I really think those kinds of self-imposed unrealistic expectations and the associated feelings of guilt or inadequacy are counterproductive to the cause of female empowerment.

    You blistered your fingers while giving from your heart and being a great example and leader for your students. If you heard a friend share this story, would you think she wasn’t doing enough? If you say yes, I’ll eat my spreadsheets this month.

    Is it heartbreaking that there are starving children in the world? Yes. Did you do your best to help alleviate their pain and suffering? Yes. Does that make you wonderful? Yes. Let’s banish “enough” from the conversation.

  4. In order to be successful in the military (a.k.a. promoted), you are encouraged to give your time to the base and the community surrounding it. I started volunteering at the local ER department and massive Food Bank of the Rockies organization to supplement my time at the office.

    The Food Bank is ginormous and runs on the backs of its volunteers. They send out thousands and thousands of pounds of food every day to hungry families in the Denver Metro, all through the help of consistent volunteers. They are desperate for helpers, and I often forget to schedule monthly time because I get wrapped up in my own life and passions.

    The truth is we could all do more. I love when you post about this because you are one of the few people in the blogosphere that tackles issues like this head on. So many of us could do more – especially people like me with zero children. You are awesome, and always killing it – as a mom, a teacher, and an advocate. You have a right to sit back and relax. It’s time for others to pick up the slack.

    *standing ovation and clapping wildly for you*

  5. Our friends in trades (and to be fair they tend to be at the heavy end of spectrum rather than, I dunno, electrician?) in many cases are already feeling the physical toll just 10 years in. Chunks of time off work on ACC due to injury/strain etc. What about at ages 40, 50, 60?

  6. Many folks don’t realize it, but working fast food and retail where you have to stand on hard floors in cramped spaces is also physically hard on a body. That’s before having to clean the equipment, be careful of the grease, and make “food” quickly. So many of my full-time coworkers at those jobs had repetitive stress injuries.

  7. Awesome post Penny, and great takeaways about manual labor and volunteering. It sounds like you guys were able to have a huge impact! I have a lot of memories working physically demanding minimum wage jobs. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to realize how far I’ve come and how blessed I am to be getting to work an office job for a salary. Paid holidays/vacations, sick days, getting to sit down? I never want to take it for granted, and it makes waking up for work each day a lot easier.

    We volunteered serving food to the homeless recently and were reminded that we need to do it more often too! Thanks for the reminder.

  8. You are a great role model Penny – you do so much and are very conscious of the bigger picture.

    I also volunteer on occasion, but what I’ve gravitated towards is the realisation that it’s much more valuable to volunteer professional skills than to volunteer manual labour.

  9. LX

    First time leaving a comment because this is one of my favorite charities! How can anyone object to donations of bulk foods? It’s so transparent and fills a true life or death need. The easiest way I give back with 0 cost to myself? You can pick a favorite charity when you shop on amazon and they’ll donate a very small percentage of the purchase price to the once charity you choose. You just have to shop through the smile.amazon portal and it will automatically send it to your charity. I proudly set mine up to be FMSC, but there are hundreds of charities to choose from. And a few pennies here and there adds up!

    I don’t think volunteering time and money is about doing “enough.” It’s something that pulls you out of your bubble and changes your perspective. All day every day I’m thinking about my finances and purchases and long term plans for achieving my desired net worth. When I dontate I immerse myself in someone else’s world and I see it through their eyes. I get the benefit of becoming more grounded because I appreciate my gifts and privileges. I become less self centered and think about how even a small amount like 20$ that has zero effect on my life, can change the trajectory of someone else’s life. I break the rumination about the unexpected expense that ruined my budget and think about how the majority of the world can’t save anything after covering their basical needs. I don’t feel inadequate or behind comparing my net worth to those with millions on the net worth list because I see the millions of people with no net worth at all. Just the ability to have something to donate at all fills me with gratitude and humility. I don’t want to wait to experience these reflections and reminders once I have “enough.”

    • I owe you a more thoughtful reply (soon!), but I am so stoked that you commented. Thank you for that! And I’m glad you love this organization, too!

    • LX & Penny,

      I hope you didn’t think I was suggesting that Penny or anyone should stop volunteering until she has more time, more money, or is in a different stage of life. If that’s how my comment came across, I sincerely regret it and apologize.

      I only meant to express concern that part of the self talk for many women–who are contributing a ton at their work place, to their families, to their communities, and to the world–seems to be a focus on how they are not doing enough. I don’t want amazing young women to burn themselves out or to buy into society’s perception that it’s a given that they should “do it all” and then do more. I want female self talk to be kind and–dare I say it?–celebratory.

      By the way, I am female.

      I have been ambitious and driven all my life. (Now in my 40s) When I was young, my mom always worried I was doing too much and needed to give myself a break. Sometimes she was right. Reading Penny’s posts made me see my younger self, and I guess I channeled my mom. My comment was not intended as a criticism. Penny, I think you’re wonderful. Truly.

  10. Absolutely LOVE this charity! It is based here in Raleigh so lots of packing opportunities throughout the year. We bring the kids a couple times a year for events and they love it. Definitely a great gateway to becoming more charitable because you see that impact per $ can be much greater than what people think “giving” is like (handing a few bucks to the beggar at the highway exit). Obsession with money, whether it is excessive spending or obsessive hoarding, is a sure path to an empty feeling in the end. The more comfortable you become with giving time and money to important causes the less money anxiety will affect you. Rise Against Hunger, Charity: Water, and Samaritan’s Purse are all highly rated, efficient, and impactful with minimal effort/cost.

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