I’m spending this week in the beautiful city of Riga, Latvia.
Latvia is one of three Baltic countries in Eastern Europe making its way in the world, having won independence after the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1991.
The path has been a bumpy one.
A common saying in this region is, “You can’t eat freedom.” That sentence reflects the incredible challenge of building a free a market economy from the ground up and surviving the financial meltdown of the last few years.
There are lots and lots of needs here, especially for leaders to rise to the challenge of placing service above self interest. And that’s why I’m here. Not as a paid consultant, but as one person giving back as a citizen of the world.
Four Life Tasks, Four Key Questions
If you’re familiar with my work, you’re familiar with the four fundamental life tasks I promote and the four questions that accompany each. Like all the wheels turning on a four wheel drive vehicle, having meaningful answers to each question is the key to living a life that is rich and full.
Answering the question related to the Work Task tends to come easily to most of us, then the Self Task and the Love Task. But answering the question related to the Service Task can be elusive. Yet giving ourselves to a cause that’s bigger than we are can be one of the most profound experiences in life.
So I ask you, how are you giving back? Here are two simple solutions:
1. Give Back with Your Time
Giving back begins with giving our time. And with all the demands on our time today, there’s the temptation to claim that we simply can’t do this.
Just the opposite is true. Here’s why.
The relentless pace of life today leaves our soul empty and dry. Replenishing this reservoir, ironically, comes from doing something outside of ourselves totally unrelated to making a living or raising a family.
There was a time when my wife and I prepared meals for a local shelter. Every time our turn came up do this, I groaned. It was such hassle to turn off the TV, get off the couch, walk out the door (again) and feed people missing most of their teeth and smelling like the street.
But I tell you, every time I did, it nourished my soul. The gratitude and the smiles we received were amazing. Some nights we played bingo with the group after dinner and gave away silly prizes. It was an absolute riot! I always walked away renewed and refreshed.
2. Give Back with Your Treasure
And yes, we can give back with our money, just don’t do it without giving back with your time. It’s too easy to write and check and wash our hands of any real relationship.
But write a check we must for 90 percent of the world’s financial resources reside in North America. This isn’t something to feel guilty about, we have been uniquely blessed as a country. Nor is it something to redistribute through forced government intervention, such programs rarely, if ever, work.
What does work, however, is simple generosity, freely giving from our wealth to those in need. Find a cause your believe in and support it.
Giving Back’s Dirty Little Secret
Or you can do both as I’ve done here in Latvia.
I’ve given a week and a half of my time to travel halfway across the world and teach a group of students preparing for pastoral ministry (a life of giving back). I’m teaching them the principles of leadership I teach my clients in businesses large and small, and I’m paying for the entire trip myself from the profit of my practice.
And I’m loving every minute of it because the dirty little secret about giving back is this: you receive much more in return than you give. Every time!
With such a deal like that, how in the world can you not give back?
So get off the couch, turn off the TV, and do something that’s bigger than yourself. Now! You’ll be a dramatically different person as a result.