I made a mistake when I started ReimagineArt Mobile Art Studio. The awareness crept in slowly, as I began to feel that some imperative was missing but could not put my finger on it. What could it be? My business concept was working not only in my head but in real life, I was booking events and earning repeat customers, my bottom line was growing, and industry trends across-the-board began pointing toward an increased demand for what ReimagineArt so effectively delivers – meaningful opportunities for employees to connect with each other and feel engaged in the workplace.
Maybe this sense of malaise could be traced to something unrelated to business. I ticked through a personal inventory of key health indicators: exercise (check), healthy diet and habits (check), ample sleep (trying anyway), quality time with family and friends (depends on the week but check). Still, something was definitely off and was not getting better.
A clue arrived unexpectedly in my inbox a few weeks ago: “Are you available to help refugee families for 2 hours on a Thursday night?” The email was not sent specifically to me – I am on a large listserv for a local outreach serving refugees in our city – but it may have well been. I regularly receive inquiries for help, but for some reason this particular one hit me like a glass of cold water in the face waking me up to what has been wrong. I reached out to the contact person listed in the email and learned that the parents of a young refugee family wished to attend citizenship classes but could not without the help of an onsite babysitter for their three children, ages 3, 7, and 9, and that the commitment was for one evening a week for twelve weeks.
Sign me up.
I have volunteered on a regular basis since my early teens which eventually morphed into organizing and leading teams of volunteers locally, nationally, and abroad, oftentimes revolving around art (surprise, surprise). I know it’s helpful to others but honestly, serving people is just a feel-good endeavor that applies some sort of crazy math where my little contribution turns around and gives me way more than I gave — all intangible, of course, but real powerful stuff (read real and powerful).
When the idea for ReimagineArt began formulating in my mind, I did what every self-respecting entrepreneur does – cleared every ‘non-essential’ off my plate to free up valuable time and energy to put into the startup, including volunteering. My school days are long gone, but I am thankfully still capable of learning…. volunteerism is not a non-essential for me, rather a lifeline to what is most important – the vital connectivity among people for survival, not only physical but emotional and dare I say, spiritual.
If volunteerism were a pill that could be prescribe for those mysterious things that ail people in the mood department, it would be in every medicine cabinet. If you need evidence, take this from 7-year-old Zuzu: