Inspiring Community Service Among our Youth.

@postaday 269; #postaday2011.

Last night the kitchen phone rang while I was making dinner. Whenever that happens, it is either my in-laws, the Blood Bank of Hawaii, or a poll taker. We rarely use that line. If you want to get in touch with any of us, we each have our own lines. In fact, we don’t even give out that number as a contact anymore.

You've got less than 30 seconds to make the right impression.

I saw that it was a local number so I answered. I had spuds on the kitchen stove, protein outside on the grill, a spatula in one hand and a glass of wine in the other. In other words, I had no time for nonsense.



I waited longer than I usually do.

“….Oh, yeah, how are you this evening?”

Hmmm. The back-handed, ‘we know each other’ approach. Not working for me.

“Who IS this?”

“….I’m calling from Habilitat. Have you ever heard of our organization?”

This was a young man. Reading a script. I could be wrong, but I imagined him to be in baggy shorts, sprouting a few wisps of whiskers, soulful eyes, wafting in his grandpa’s patchouli oil, Mountain Dew at the ready, and his smart phone keeping him in touch with that which mattered. His disinterestedness in his immediate task was obvious to me. Here was a kid doing something he didn’t really want to do. Had he cared, he’d certainly treat the phone call as an opportunity to charm a credit card commitment out of me.


I shut him down. It’s not likely that at 7:30 p.m. a telephone solicitor would think that I have a spatula in my hand. We eat late. He probably thought I would have my wallet, and that I would be ready to open it. I do give to Aloha United Way through payroll deduction. Really and truly? The kids’ college funds will get deposits before a slacker stranger on the phone.

I suspect there’s a growing trend in our community, and it’s all for good. Kid1 has been assigned to accomplish some kind of community service as part of her scholastic requirement. That’s what I suspect might be the case in the young dude who called our house last night. He was probably given a choice of what to do and picked what he thought might be an easy hour. I get it. Requiring community service is a fine idea. It’s like eating your vegetables. You might not want to, but it does a body good. When done in the right spirit, community service builds empathy. When we put ourselves in the background, when we put others first, we get in this blissful zone of selflessness. It is a great place to be. When we focus on the me, myself, and I, we are never really happy. When we focus on you, those, and them, our unhappiness is diminished. Empathy grows stronger.

I look around at work and I am surrounded by a lot of smart young professionals. I’m in awe of them. They are so accomplished, they are bright, they have amazing ideas. I love being around them. I hope that by association, their insight takes root in me. I no longer worry that the world is going to hell in a hand basket. If these young people will be running the show soon, everything will be fine.

Say you run a nonprofit and you’re desperate for funds. A few kids get tossed your way to make evening phone calls. Before they begin the main exercise, they need a warm up. They need a pep talk, they need to talk story with you a little bit, they need to get a feel for their mission. If you’re stuck with a few kids who would rather be somewhere else, I hope there is someway you can connect their hearts with the phone numbers on the page. Stoke their embers. Unless I sense true enthusiasm and inspiration through the scrambled digital signal in my phone, I’m going to politely hang up.

Author: lavagal

Hawaii Kai wife and mom. Melanoma Stage 3a Cancer survivor. English Language Learners Coordinator and Paraprofessional Tutor. Super sub teacher. Dormant triathlete. Road cyclist and Masters swimmer. Gardener. Mrs. Fixit. Random dancer. Music Curator. A teenager trapped in an aging body. Did you know 60 is the new 40? It is.

6 thoughts on “Inspiring Community Service Among our Youth.”

  1. there’s no telling whether your caller was even associated with the charity he was soliciting on behalf of. cold calling gets outsourced to outfits that skim heavily from donations. the charities accept that … it’s like found money to them. but i want money i donate to go entirely to the ostensible beneficiary. the solution? don’t answer the phone. keep up the payroll deduction.

  2. Well, in this case the caller was genuine. In fact, Habilitat has been supporting itself for almost 40 years by doing these fundraisers. Actually the guy who called was earning his way through a very tough and lengthy addiction treatment program. He is EARNING his way… not being supported by the government, not bleeding the tax payers dollars. He came to Habilitat voluntarily as an alternative to incarceration.

    Incarcerating a person in the state of Hawaii cost the taxpayer $100 per day for each inmate. Habilitat puts these people to work, teaches them skills, eventually, that will be needed to transition back into society. 100% of the proceeds go directly to Habilitat, a local non-profit that’s been around since 1971.

    Habilitat is one of the largest suppliers of Trees on the island and the cause is a good one! I should know… they saved my life! Habilitat is 100% self reliant as an organization because of these fundraisers. We want to provide a service to our community not just take handouts.

    If you do some checking around you will find out that Habilitat is actually one of the most successful addiction treatment programs in the nation. They make a difference. they take the unsalvageable and turn them into fully recovered tax paying citizens.

    I’m sure the young man, trying to earn his way to redemption, wasn’t trying to interfere with your dinner plans. In fact, I bet he wished he didn’t have to make those calls but he does it because he knows its important to his redemption.

    There is no doubt that there are so many people out there trying to make a buck off a people’s compassion for the down trodden and lost souls. I assure you Habilitat is the real deal. They are also beneficiaries of Aloha United Way!


  3. By the way… your advice is good! We’ll see what we can do to improve that! You have a great attitude about our youth! Would you ever consider coming to give a talk at Habilitat? I’m confident you would be in awe at what its all about! It would be great feedback for those who struggle with self confidence and self esteem!

  4. Mahalo to Jeff Nash of Habilitat for his response. Would I want to speak? Not likely. I do well with the written word, but I’m a bumbling stutterer in person. Habilitat deserves tons of credit for touching so many lives. As Jeff pointed out to me above, the young man who called me last night is in recovery. I’ve made calls myself on behalf of Hawaii’s public television and radio stations, easy sells compared to others seeking assistance. Best wishes to him, and thank goodness Habilitat exists to help this guy and so many others find firm footing on this world of ours.

    Jeff: I’m not sure how this might work, but, you might consider having these callers introduce themselves. If this young man had said to me, “Hi, I’m Jason and I’m calling on behalf of Habilitat because they have helped me with my recovery…” I’d at least put down the spatula. And you can also bet the next time the Aloha United Way form comes around, Habilitat will get a generous cut of my donation. I always like to designate organizations I believe in. You’ve won me over.

  5. lavagal,

    We did some follow up in hopes of making some improvements. Come to find out… he was a kid, albeit no baggy shorts or scruffy facial stubble… a 20 something non-the-less… last night was his very first night on the phone. He was scared to death… Alas, he must dive in and face his fears if the promise of a good life is to be his for keeps!

    Thank you for your kind words about Habilitat. We work hard to make a difference and also not to be like oh so many NPO’s who depend on something for nothing.

    Just wondering if you might be willing to lend us some of your experience in PR? Either way… I’d like to invite you for lunch and a grand tour of Habilitat’s ocean front facility in Kane’he. I promise I won’t try to sell you a thing!



  6. I appreciate the feedback. I am responsible for training individuals in the sales department at Habilitat. When I came across this post the first thing that came to my mind was finding who made the call. This was not to reprimand, but rather an opportunity to teach and to learn. Habilitat has taught me that if there is a problem, start at the top. We are a very structured program so it was not difficult to track down the individual who made the call. There are currently 21 sales representatives in my department. Each night we bring in one of the younger residents to give them an opportunity to learn. It also gives them something to look forward to when they reach the stage in the program where they begin vocational training. The young gentlemen who called you was getting his first taste at learning a trade in his life. In fact you were one of the first calls he made. I tell you all this not to make an excuse, but to let you know that I share your views on the vegetables and selflessness, which is why I do what I do. My job is to make those soulful eyes bright with enthusiasm and to turn lost individuals into inspired professionals with direction. I thank you for sharing your story and I will be sure to put more time into our trainees concerning the “why” and not so much the “what”.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s