Friday, August 12, 2011

If It Takes a Village, Build One

If It Takes a Village, Build One: How I Found Meaning Through a Life of Service and 100+ Ways You Can Too by Malaak Compton-Rock 2010
Broadway Books/Random House

Incredible Quote "I believe that if you care about people, you should care about all people. And if you really believe that we are all part of this human race, all global citizens, then it makes sense to care about all people and to help people anywhere in the world. Certainly, the individuals who receive your time, money, and support appreciate it. But I also think each of us benefits when we serve internationally. There are the cultural benefits, such as learning more about another way of life and understanding other parts of the world in a more in-depth way. Even more important, I think we come to feel that the world is a warmer, friendlier place and that we are part of a human family that sustains us all." pgs. 151-152

Malaak Compton-Rock is a dedicated humanitarian. She has written a book to help others help more people. Her mother took her to rallies and exemplified a life of service to her, and both her parents discussed politics, race and education at the dinner table. In her first book, Ms. Compton-Rock shares the lessons she learned from her mother, and various jobs on living a life dedicated to service. She also provides tips on how to raise children committed to volunteerism and includes resources such as websites and names of various organizations worth checking out to consider volunteering with and/or giving a donation. Starting with how to find the right volunteer opportunity for yourself and your family and continuing with how to throw a fundraiser, start a nonprofit and research reputable charities. To quote the book flap this is "the must-have book (and perfect gift!) for aspiring do-gooders". (And I 100% agree with that quote).

One of my favorite quotes is "service is the rent we pay for living" first said by Marian Wright Edleman. This quote is the daily mantra of Malaak Compton-Rock and through the stories and tips she shares, it becomes quite clear that she is paying more than her share. I was skeptical at first as to how usable her tips would be considering that she also happens to be the wife of Chris Rock and thus has lots of money and influence to give to various worthy causes. Ms. Compton-Rock however, continuously stresses that she realizes how fortunate she is but for the most part are tips are applicable to would-be (and current) volunteers of all incomes. Certain tips concerning corporate sponsors I don't think will apply to everyone but there are other tips about using local businesses and other resourceful ways to save money on planning an event. What I disliked the most about this book was the fact that after all the author's talk about buying gifts, cards, etc from non-profit organizations (or businesses like RED) she doesn't take her own advice and donate the profits from her book to a particular cause. Or at least she doesn't publicize it which is both good and bad. Good because if she does donate proceeds from her book sales, she's being humble by not showcasing it but I'm more eager to buy books where I know proceeds are being given to a certain organization I support and/or find interesting.

I chose the quote I did as Incredible because I've often struggled when people remind me (especially my mom) "charity begins at home". I realize that and we all know America has its fair share of problems but I'm also drawn to working with international NGOs (well not exactly work per se although that's what I want to do after college but for now I just mean choosing where to donate my money and whether or not to spread the word) and I never have the answer for the question of choosing domestic vs. international causes to champion. I want to do both and now thanks to Ms. Compton-Rock I have an answer I can adapt in my own words. She describes it perfectly (if only I was so eloquent)! Another key point she makes early on that I think is well worth bearing in mind concerning deciding how much to donate she states that people "often start feeling guilty about how small their gifts seem, not realizing that every cent counts to a nonprofit organization. They turn what should be a joyous, positive, self-affirming experience into something that causes them guilt or sadness. And no one should be feeling either of these emotions when they have decided to serve by giving" (pg. 31). Sometimes I feel sad when I'm giving but only because I wish I could do more, I wholeheartedly agree that when you donate money you should happy because you took a BIG first step. But I also think you should feel a bit restless and a CRAVING to do more.

If It Takes a Village, Build One is an essential read for everyone because everyone can/should donate their time, money and talents to serving others. The author doesn't try and guilt the reader with harrowing statistics (while there are a few sprinkled throughout they never overwhelmed me with sadness and I'm a mess when it comes to that sort of thing), instead she provides the statistics and then shares the organizations that are DOING something to lower those scary stats. Her stories are uplifting and I *plan* on keeping this book around for the rest of my life for organizations to volunteer for during and after college as well as for tips on how to raise kids (if I ever have any) with generous spirits. I closed this book feeling like (as cliché and cheesy as this is about to sound) I could DO ANYTHING and MAKE A DIFFERENCE in some kind of positive way. I immediately emailed two local organizations I volunteer for with some new ideas and the wheels are turning in my head concerning the blog and C.O.L.O.R. Personally I would recommend this to everyone!

Disclosure: Bought (while in NYC at a closing Borders. I LOVE NYC!)

Ps Check out the author's website for even more resources