Sometimes a volunteer opportunity just shows up. And it turns out that some people have just the skills and equipment necessary to help. We had an epic flood in South Louisiana last week. Emergency services were overwhelmed with the need. At first, they tried to turn down the fishermen and hunters who were stepping up to rescue neighbors and strangers. But, the government officials relented when the need out ran the resources rather quickly.
Flat bottomed boats, pirogues, rowboats, and motorboats operated by the men who hang out on the bayous and in the swamps fishing and hunting showed up and got the job done. About 20,000 people and their pets have been rescued in the past week. Rob Gaudet, the de facto head of the Cajun Navy, estimated that the volunteers helped 20% of them. They worked tirelessly to grab people out of homes filling with water. They faced alligators, snakes, downed power lines, and unseen obstacles beneath the waves. And, they got the job done with grace and kindness.
The Cajun Navy utilized current technology to make this happen. There were two apps pressed into service, one called Glympse and the other Zello. Glympse is a GPS locator, usually installed by anxious parents. Zello is a walkie-talkie app. The group coordinated their efforts with these tools. They worked in conjunction with law enforcement and the National Guard.
Mr. Gaudet wrote the following on The Cajun Navy Facebook page:
“This ‘thing’ called the Great Flood, as horrible as it is, birthed the Cajun Navy.
Instead of a media world where we often feel like simple pawns in a game of global chess and have no control.
We were empowered.
The Great Flood forced us (members and non-members alike) to do what we should have been doing all along. Focusing on what’s really important in all of our lives. Helping our communities, saving our neighbors and finding ourselves again.
In the midst of it we figured out how to celebrate the good in humanity and by doing so we regained control of our lives.
And we became better people.”
This sums up what I believe about volunteering to help our neighbor.
Thank you, Cajun Navy.
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There are many benefits of volunteering.
Obviously, the people who are served receive benefits. Or else, why would you be giving your time and skills? Often the positive benefit is on both sides of the giving – for both the giver as well as the receiver.
It is remarkable when I have set out to volunteer in the past. I am always blessed by those whom we serve. I have met interesting, funny and charming humans through trying to help them. It turns out that I was the one in need of assistance. They were my lanterns to help me see the nooks and crannies of my own spiritual poverty. I learned much about appreciating all the good that is in life from serving others that I thought were needy.
Finding purpose in our lives is an on-going quest. “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl is a tiny book which has a big lesson. His description of a day in the life of a Jewish prisoner in an internment camp in Nazi Germany is visceral. The take away from the book is that a “why” is the most important element in life. People who lost their sense of purpose and meaning to their lives did not have the internal grit to survive.
Social entrepreneurship is a current movement in commerce. The idea that our businesses need to have a purpose beyond financial profit has taken hold of our imaginations. The people who have begun their careers within the most recent ten years often seem to strive for making a difference in the lives of others. Pencils of Promise and Tom’s Shoes each have a mission far beyond the bottom line. Pencils of Promise is seeking to build schools in developing countries. Tom’s shoes provides simple, sturdy shoes in South America. There are numerous other organizations which have a purpose far beyond themselves. This is a powerful understanding and I celebrate it!
What about us?
But what about those of us who are just starting in our entrepreneurial journey? Do we have to travel to the developing world to get fired up about helping in another country? Is giving money the only way we can help the broken and impoverished of this world?
I believe that our purpose can be much simpler and closer to home. There are many things we can do to help in our own backyard. When we live in urban areas, there can be places which we rarely visit; the poor side of town, the ‘hood, the ghetto, call it what we may. There are pockets of the developing world right in our own backyards. In rural areas, it’s harder to sniff out those who are in dire straits, but when we pause in our striving we know they are there.
My experience is that people who are struggling for survival have many reasons for the challenges they face. Whether their reasons are internal or through systems within our society, reasons exist. If it is internal, then we are the best ones to offer assistance. We can lead and guide in shaping the thoughts and attitudes which get into a person’s way to block their path to success. Because, often we have found our own way over, around, under or through the same boulder on the road.
What do you think?
I have been thinking about this topic of how can we do better for our children and families for a year now. I have made a few blog posts learning more about the problem. I have learned and prayed and talked about it. This is what I plan to do:
I will reach out to organizations and ministries that are making a difference to the individuals and communities and which they operate. I will connect with a person who has benefited from the services provided and help their story to be told. Then, I will connect with a volunteer from the agency or ministry. Then, I will connect with the founder or current director. It is my earnest desire to encourage everyone in our communities to become aware of the needs and know what it is that they can do about it.
I will blog and create a podcast from these connections.