It is November, and the year is drawing to a close. As I write this column, the election has just concluded and the holidays are fast approaching. Holiday music is already playing in malls and restaurants, and it is easy to get caught up in the festivities and year-end billable hour targets and lose sight of the world around us. I ask you all to make an extra effort this year to reach out to the community. Volunteer. Donate. Engage. Much of the country has been caught up in polling and punditry, and there is no denying the importance of elections. Marjorie Moore, Habitat for Humanity volunteer, said, however, that “Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.”
This year, I have focused on community service as my President’s Project, asking our members to be lawyers in the community and the courtroom. On October 17, twenty members of the SCCBA joined me in volunteering at the Second Harvest Food Bank for the SCCBA’s first community service project. Second Harvest Food Bank serves, on average, almost a quarter of a million people every month, or one in ten of our neighbors here in Santa Clara County. In our two hours of service, we boxed and sorted ten tons of apples and four tons of tomatoes for distribution. The attendees had a great time, and left with raised spirits.
I hope that the SCCBA continues to plan and promote community service events, but please don’t wait for the next event. Get out there and be engaged in our community. It can be hard to find the time outside of our work and family commitments, but the effort is worth it. I left Second Harvest tired but hopeful. There were about 75 people there from other organizations that evening, and we all missed the Giants playoff game that night to make sure that people in our county would have food on their table that week. The Giants won, and so did we. The feeling you get when you give your time to others can’t be beat.
Our county has many nonprofits that could use your assistance. Volunteer teaching adults how to read; serve on a board; take tickets for a local arts performance; teach music at schools without a music program; become a docent at one of the many museums—the possibilities are endless! If you don’t have the time for an ongoing commitment, many opportunities take only a few hours, such as food banks, helping build houses or volunteering at local libraries. If you would like to do pro bono work, check outprobonomatch.org for current opportunities. And if you don’t have even a few hours, donate to a local or national nonprofit, participate in a canned food drive, or donate coats, suits, or other clothes to a nonprofit. You can even bring your unopened, unused sample cosmetics, combs, mirrors and toiletries to the SCCBA Women Lawyers Holiday Lunch on December 13 for donation to a local women’s shelter.
As you all know, parts of the East Coast have been devastated by fire, wind and waves, and thousands of people are still without power with winter storms fast approaching. Yet even in the midst of the devastation, there are heartwarming stories of people lending a hand. If you would like to help those affected by Hurricane Sandy, you can donate to the Red Cross, Salvation Army, Humane Society,AmeriCares, or numerous other nonprofits providing shelter, food, medicine and emergency assistance to those affected by the storm.
In January, I asked you to serve our community, because “the joys of giving should not be restricted to the holiday season.” Ready or not, the holiday season is now upon us, so if you haven’t engaged with the community around you, please make the time. In closing, I would like to share two quotes I hope you will take to heart. Please join with me in working to build and invigorate our shared community. Together, we can improve others’ lives and enrich our own.
“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Winston Churchill
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” Dr. Seuss