On a recent visit to the Perry Hall Library, I checked out former President Bill Clinton's book entitled Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World. While flipping through the book, I came across this inspiring quote: "We all have the capacity to do great things—lift spirits, touch hearts, and demonstrate that citizen activism and service can be a powerful agent of change in the world."
The book itself serves mostly as a collection of touching examples of how people— ordinary folks and well-known national and international figures—have found ways to help advance their respective communities. Many people think of giving as simply philanthropy, or giving money to help promote a particular cause. President Clinton correctly notes that giving isn't just a matter of money. In fact, some of the most significant ways that a person can choose to give is through offerings of their time and expertise, by means of volunteer service.
This made me think of our Perry Hall community here in northeastern Baltimore County. If you stop and think about it, there are a host of organizations all around us that dedicate the bulk of their efforts to helping make their communities better places to live. For instance, our local improvement association comes readily to mind. The Perry Hall Improvement Association, and others like it in nearby communities, help to advance their local towns. These groups typically devote a great deal of time and energy to planning festive seasonal activities for the kids, and many have their own festivals to help showcase the best of their neighborhoods.
Many also offer their own philanthropic endeavors. As an example, the PHIA created the Perry Hall Green Fund, a worthwhile project to raise funds to replenish some of the thousands of trees that have been lost in Perry Hall during the past few decades of development. This year's tree planting event is scheduled to take place during October. Other improvement associations have been generous supporters of their local library branches, fire departments, and various clubs associated with local high schools.
Another group of organizations that are active in our communities are the local "chambers of commerce" or business associations. These groups truly understand that, when you receive benefit from the community (in their case, through the patronage of its citizens), you have a duty to give something back. All across northeastern Baltimore County—along the Route 40 business corridor in Rosedale, to the Perry Hall-White Marsh area, over to Parkville and the shops along Harford Road—local entrepreneurs are dedicated to giving something back. Without the local Perry Hall White Marsh Business Association, we would never be able to enjoy the annual Perry Hall Town Fair.
You may be saying, this is all well and good, but what can I, as just one person, do to help any of these good causes. This is where the clarion call of the book really shines through. Even just one person can truly change the world, or at least his or her slice of it. Just think about it for a minute, even though we may not all have the financial resources of folks like Bill Gates or Warren Buffett, we all do have special talents. By taking the initiative and sharing these talents with those around us, we have already helped to make a positive change in our communities. Doing something as simple as reading to children during storytime at the Perry Hall Library, or helping to clean up along Belair Road or Honeygo Boulevard, are great ways to give of your time. As President Clinton said in his book, we can all change lives for the better, "both down the street and around the world, regardless of income, available time, age, and skills."
I myself have always thought of philanthropy and volunteerism as simply the right things to do. If the average person takes a good look as his or her life, they probably have a great deal to be thankful for. The best way to show gratitude for these gifts is to share yourself with others, and give some of that good feeling back to your neighbors, or even to complete strangers who may be in need of a lift. Always remember that, what a person does for himself dies with him, but what one does for the community lives forever.