Social Surplus & Community Involvement

This article talks about the idea that television has taken up a HUGE amount of our surplus time – making it so that people feel as though they don’t have time to do something, but they do. The author, Clay Shirky, suggests that when people first moved into the cities (from their rural backgrounds), that they began to become less productive. As World War Two (or the Second World War – as my Canadian military history prof liked us to call it) finished, television became the choice for many people after a long days work. Shirky argues that we have tons of extra time to use in our society, but that we spend so much time in front of the TV that we forget how much time we actually have to do something.

Author’s note: I’m kind of bad about skimming articles sometimes… I don’t always read things thoroughly… so, I would suggest that you go and read the article yourself. It’s very interesting, I just can’t help the skimming… I tell you, it’s from all those years as a university student, I still skim, I’m sorry!

So, reading this got me to thinking about how much I struggle with trying to become involved in my community when I am living abroad. For the first couple of months in a new place I often spend time adjusting to my surroundings, learning a bit of the language… then following months I find excuses – I’m too busy with work, or I can’t speak the language, I don’t know where to start.

Even when I was home it was easy to argue that I didn’t want to make the commitment to an organization if I was only going to be around for a short period of time. But I find that my lack of involvement in something beyond my job, and hanging out with my friends begins to make me feel as though I’m not living up to my potential. I love volunteering with different organizations. My time working with the GuluWalk was amazing. I was able to pull together a group of people who organized an incredible event. It was something to be proud of. Something I could pour my heart and soul into. Something that made me feel like I was contributing to the world, more than just bringing home my monthly paychecks. I have this need to do something. The question is what can I do?

Jeff and I decided to sponsor a child through World Vision. My parents have always had a sponsor child for as long as I can remember – I think they’ve gone through about four or five as the communities become sustainable. (I have fond memories of my sister and I watching World Vision commercials on TV on Saturday mornings in our pjs.) So, we’ve made a small step. We have an eleven year old girl from Indonesia. But, that’s just money. That doesn’t feel like it’s actually making a difference. Taking $35 off our paychecks a month doesn’t really affect me. Yeah, it’s less money in the bank, but I’m not emotionally attached to my money. I want to do something more, something meaningful.

I’m leaving Seoul in a few (or couple) of months. Starting off in a new country – I’d like to make the effort to become involved in something beyond my job. It will be easy for me put it off for the first couple of months, then the next couple of months, but I hope that I can become involved in the local community in some way. So I’m hoping that you will keep me accountable. Remind me of this desire, give me a little nudge when I get to Mongolia so that I can become involved in my community in some way. Maybe it will be my school community, maybe it will be the ex-pat community, maybe it will be the local community – whatever it is, I want to be a part of a community that is commited to making a difference.

P.S. As I was searching to make sure that the World Vision link was correct, my eye was directed to this page on their site. Their first of five steps to inner peace – Seek some community (Facebook doesn’t count!) This must be a sign.

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~ by dawseng on May 1, 2008.

One Response to “Social Surplus & Community Involvement”

  1. It’s so tough to know where to look. Even with the orphanages, they wanted a six month commitment, but didn’t get back to me in time after the holidays for me to be able to fulfill that. There is only so much an English speaking person in a non-English speaking country can do, and it’s frustrating. Hope you find fulfillment in Mongolia!!

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