West Wing fans may remember this story, told by Leo McGarry to Josh Lyman:
This guy’s walking down the street and he falls into a hole. The walls are so steep he can’t get out. A doctor walks past and the man calls out “Hey doc, can you help me, I’m stuck down this hole?” The doctor writes out a prescription, throws it in and moves on. A priest comes by and the man calls out “Hey father, can you help me, I’m stuck down this hole?” The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and walks on. Then a friend walks by: “Joe, it’s me, can you help me out?” and the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says “Are you stupid? Now we’re both down here!” The friend says “Yeah, but I’ve been down here before and I know the way out.”
What do we mean when we talk about making a contribution? Is it about helping a friend out of a hole? Volunteering for a cause we believe in? Caring for a sick dependant? Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with others on a protest march? Creating art or music? Doing worthwhile paid work? Doing any kind of paid work because we need to put food on the table?
It isn’t necessarily about earning a living. Some people reading this will be retired, others still working full-time and others some combination thereof. It’s about giving back.
Making a contribution can be as simple as modelling the behaviour you think is right: “Be the change you want to see in the world” as Gandhi famously said.
Whatever your contribution is, it’s necessary to us all.