If you know me well, you’ll know I love to use quotes to portray my convictions. So let’s do that justice with this quote from Booker T. Washington: “If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.”
Coming to college, everyone tells you to prioritize YOUR experience, do what’s best for YOU, and how to get ready for YOUR career. Rarely do we talk about what it’s like to prioritize others, and how to make your life about more than just yourself. If we live our college lives only thinking about ourselves, how are we supposed to transition out of a me-focused lifestyle when we leave college? One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned in college is that the best way to live a fulfilled life is to lift others before myself.
I took a course through COBA last year called strategic philanthropy, where the class is given $50,000 to give away into the Abilene community during the semester. Through this class, you learn about how you can change your mindset and start giving back, even in college. I found out about a local nonprofit called Abilene Hope Haven, which is a Housing First model seeking to prevent homelessness in Abilene. I’ve always been passionate about ending homelessness, but until I looked beyond myself and reached out, I didn’t even know that an organization like Abilene Hope Haven existed in my own college town. This organization is one of many incredible nonprofits seeking to make a difference in Abilene, but they need volunteers like us to invest in their mission.
Philanthropy is a lifestyle, not a habit once you reach a certain salary or career point. I always thought I would start to give back once I had a real job, but what I’m doing now in college is real too. I have my time, and my passions, which is enough. So do you. The time is now for me, and for you, to start lifting others and giving back. College isn’t just about you, or me, but it’s about us: and a lot more is included in that us than just focusing on grades, social clubs, and future careers.
Abilene is actually a city full of nonprofits and wonderful organizations to volunteer with, whether or not you plan to go into that sort of work as a career. ACU can be a bubble, but only you have the power to pop that bubble and get involved. Whether it’s something small like volunteering on campus, or making sure you always recycle, think about the world around you. Look for opportunities to give back, and get involved locally. I promise you won’t regret it, and I’d hopefully presume that you will end up lifting yourself through the habit of giving back.