Along the way, we have learned that each meaningful journey involves a beautifully unique process. There is no special formula, no A-to-Z manual. Each experience unfolds in its mysterious way like a great book, and perhaps most important of all, it cannot be rushed.
Many of us search for ways in which we can make a difference and bring meaning to our lives, but the reality is that most of us don’t know where or even how to begin the process.
Lydia Dean joined a volunteer trip some years ago to an orphanage in India. She returned home questioning whether her time, resources, and intellect could have benefitted the children at the orphanage she visited in a better way. She developed ideas around a newly burgeoning concept— meaningful travel, in which people learn about, visit and directly support the work of humanitarian programs and people while traveling.
So how to begin? Most people start with a period of self-discovery, one that involves figuring out what we love, and what makes us go. Surprisingly, many people aren’t clear on what they are truly passionate about or how they will know if they are making a difference. Sometimes just a few simple questions, such as those included here, can prompt a dialogue that will get the juices flowing.
BEGIN WITH YOU: YOUR INTERESTS AND PASSIONS
One person we talked with had been giving, both time and money, to a wide variety of different programs when he realized that he felt spread too thin and needed to reassess his efforts, focusing more on his #1 passion of education and mentoring.
- What are some of your passions in life? If you are not sure, think about what gives you enjoyment, where you spend a good deal of your time.
- What talents might you share with others?
- What are some of your special interests/causes…ex education, health, human rights, economic empowerment?
- What have you thought about/dreamed about doing/giving to/ that you never have? What has stopped you from acting?
REFLECT UPON YOUR PAST EXPERIENCES
An awareness of what works for you and what doesn’t in your giving is key. Many people tell us that they are not always clear on where their resources are going or if they really are making an impact. Many question if their talents are being used in the most effective ways when engaged with a NFP.
- Historically, what causes have you given to or been involved in and how did you make that decision?
- Have you ever had a really good or bad giving experience? What made it so?
- What would make your giving a “peak” experience?
MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR GIVING
What giving experiences have mattered to you, what makes your heart and mind sing? One of our community members loves to give to programs in Vietnam because she and her late husband ( a veteran of that war) found this to be a very special place, one where they enjoyed meeting the people and learning more about the culture.
- Is there a geographic part of the world that you are most drawn to? Is this a place you have traveled to or would like to travel to?
- Do you like to be focused on just a few key issues/activities or do you enjoy being involved in many different things?
- Do you have talents, resources you would enjoy sharing with others?
WHAT DOES SUCCESS LOOK LIKE?
“I love hearing about the child I sponsor and when I recently had the chance to actually meet her, learn her story in a more personal way, it made all the difference in the world to me.”
- Do you like to be fully immersed in your giving or do you take a more hands-off approach?
- In the past, how have you known if your giving has been successful?
- How would you actually know if you were making a difference?
In some ways this looking for how you can make a difference is, as one community member told us, “a leap of faith” – it’s about letting yourself go and taking risks. “Things find you; you don’t find them. It takes patience and openness to new possibilities.”
Some things work, some don’t. There may be some meandering along the way. That’s okay. It’s your journey and your groove that you are getting on and when things are beginning to really click, you will know it.