Eight months ago, I attended a work luncheon at a newly constructed industrial warehouse. I sat next to a man named Robert. We talked about all sorts of things besides work, which is rare. Usually conversations at work luncheons revolve around just that - work. We shared stories of triathlons, San Antonio, touring Napa Valley (which he recommended I do), and eventually got to the subject of volunteering. Mind you, I work in commercial real estate - an industry predominantly over run with rich, white males who strive for nothing more than to make as much money as possible (generalization) and very rarely care much about their surroundings. While Robert may well have been money hungry, he didn't appear to be wrapped up in the idea of being a millionaire. "We are here to give back to others, to be of service for others," he said. I was taken aback - in a good way. He went on to tell me that he's been volunteering at Texas Children's Hospital for 10 years now, playing guitar every Wednesday for sick kids. I asked what made him decide to do that, thinking it may have been because he had a sick child of his own at some point. He said he saw the same guy at the gym every time he was there and one day decided to strike up a conversation with him. Robert learned that this guy was a firefighter and volunteered at Texas Children's as - get this - A BABY HOLDER! He went into detail about how big and buff this guy was and he would hold babies to give the mother a break to go to the bathroom, get some food, what have you. Robert said he signed up to volunteer the next day. We talked more about the idea of charity, volunteering, giving back. "Some have extra money to give, and that's definitely needed to advance research or provide materials. But, your time is important. Your time is needed." The luncheon was ending and we exchanged business cards. I received an email from him the next week, which in turn gave me the opportunity to express how much he inspired me, how grateful I was to have sat next to him. His response: "Thank you for the very kind words, a positive dose for Monday. My daily goal is to make ripples that turn into waves. Mother Theresa did so much with so little, may your opportunities make a difference."
Fast forward to today and I'm still thinking about our conversation. I saved his card so I can one day thank him (again). As I've had more opportunities to give my time, I can't help but think that our quality of life is directly dependent upon our surroundings - improve your surroundings and you improve your quality of life. The more I volunteer, the better I feel. The better I feel, the more I want to give back. The more I give back, the happier I am. It's the best cycle I've ever been caught in and can't wait to go even deeper, turning my own ripples into waves.