It’s MLK day, and the day before Inauguration Day, when Barack Obama will become the 44th President of the United States of America. The President-Elect has urged everyone to rededicate themselves to the ideal of community service, both as way of honoring Dr. King and his message, and as a way of revitalizing one of our core values.
Community service is the “grease for the wheels” of our whole enterprise in this country. All sorts of wonderful things happen through volunteerism that wouldn’t happen otherwise. Altruism is admirable in and of itself. The reality is that volunteering and community service are at the heart of bringing people together in cooperation. Without community service, even businesses would grind to a halt.
Community service is about “enlightened self-interest.” If you volunteer for something that you care about, the world changes for the better, and that benefits you. There is nothing wrong with having this attitude. In fact, balance your altruism with the reality of limits on what you can take on and give your attention. When you keep your own self-interest in mind, and in balance, you prevent burnout and martyr syndrome.
When people in our profession think about a community service project, they usually think in terms of a free clinic of some sort, or a way of providing Feldenkrais lessons pro bono to a needy and deserving population. These projects are certainly worthy, and needed. However, starting a free clinic is probably not something you can do by yourself, nor would you want to! A free clinic would also increase the visibility of your work in the community, but not necessarily increase your client load. Think outside of your constraints — where are other opportunities to volunteer?
If you want to leverage your time and energy so that both your practice and your community benefit, get involved with a project that has nothing to do with Feldenkrais. Yeah. Why? Because other Feldenkrais teachers are probably not going to become your clients. You don’t need to spend practice-building time with other Feldies! You want to spend time with, and have access to, people who have never heard of the Feldenkrais Method. If you are a member of a church or temple, get involved with a project there. Hunger, peace, the thrift shop, even ushering — any and all are ways to meet people from all walks of life. You already have something in common with them. Let the relationship grow, let them get to know you before you start beating them over the head about your business. Political organizations, charities, community gardens, museums — anywhere there is a need, you will meet new people.
The fact is that people do business with the people that they know, like, and trust. Let people get to know you. Keep your mind on the project, be a good committee member, be friendly and reliable. Your practice will grow in ways you never imagined.
More on service in the next post.