Throughout the many different roles in which I’ve served, there has always come a time when I had to wonder if I was actually making a difference in the world. This type of reflection is a healthy one if you use it to grow yourself into new directions of service.
I recently shared with a group of students at a social-responsibility class at Central Penn College three things they are likely to encounter as they go about a life spent making a difference:
Bigger is not better: Laurence J. Peter said, “Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status.” I used to think that the bigger the company, the smarter and more ethical is was. This is not necessarily true. High walls can be a haven for low morals and the more bureaucratic an organization is the more likely it is to tolerate incompetence. It’s in the nature of bureaucracies to be bloated, full of bull, and to ensure the beneficiary is beholden to their interests.
Size does matter; the smaller the better. In 2011, according to U.S. Census Bureau data, there were 5.68 million employer firms in the United States. Firms with fewer than 500 workers accounted for 99.7 percent of those businesses, and businesses with less than twenty workers made up 89.8 percent. In short, small business is what actually makes the world go round and packs the most economic punch.
Only you can make a difference: Nations, industries, companies, religions, races, etc., etc., etc., are not good or evil. The only thing inherently built to do good or bad on this planet is man. And we are only held accountable for our own actions. Never, ever underestimate the power of the person as you go up against those who couldn’t care less about doing what’s moral, ethical or legal. As my father, Charlie “Tremendous” Jones, so famously said, “Have you ever seen a monument dedicated to a committee?”
What continues to shape the world of social responsibility is the gift of the individual. The power of the purse is felt most when the hands that hold it are freely and selflessly giving. Giving by individuals makes up the vast majority of contributions received by nonprofit organizations. Giving USA 2013 estimates that individual giving amounted to $228.93 billion in 2012, an increase of 3.9 percent in current dollars (1.9%, adjusted for inflation) from 2011. This accounts for 72 percent of all contributions received in 2012.
Cause and Effect: According to the laws of physics, the effect can never be greater than the cause, so you need to have a burning commitment to the mission at the heart of all you do. If you work for a company, that’s slavery. If you work for yourself, that’s selfish. If you work for others, that’s worship! Your role in making the world a better place should be a blessing, not a curse. If social responsibility is a J.O.B. you’re doing it wrong.
Every living thing on this planet has an obligation to give back something—anything! It may be time, talents, or other resources. It may be connections, or just a warm body needed to complete a task. Wherever we are in life, it is our sole purpose to be doing unto others as we would have them do unto us. And if we need help, we need to be willing to help others. John D. Rockefeller said, “Charity is injurious unless it helps the recipient to become independent of it.” If you need help, get it, and then go about the business of helping others.
May your 2015 be filled with countless tremendous opportunities to serve and bless others!