As usual, the most interesting comments on my subject came not from me but from you.
From Chris: In reference to volunteerism, I, too, have no illusions about achieving the sort of social relevance of a Ben Franklin. But I have pursued volunteerism for the past 18 years at an average of perhaps 5-7 hours per week in a manner most probably atypical.
I have found that good intentions are not enough to maintain long-term efforts. The persistent assaults of irritation, inconvenience and other demands on one’s time eventually overwhelm motivation based only in good intentions. There needs to be something more.
A local university has a program for undergraduates to learn about small satellite design and construction from local volunteer mentors-from-industry who come in and donate their time. The time is spent doing something the mentors find interesting and rewarding from a “techie” perspective, and simultaneously passing along knowledge kids could never receive from academe alone. I helped found the program and have stayed with it since. Thus far, we’ve managed to get two of the satellites launched, and one is still operating in orbit.
When I mention this to folks, I often see a double-take and then a smile. They will usually say something like “I’ve always thought of volunteer work as spending hours ladling soup at a homeless shelter. I never thought of it as rocket science.”
It can be anything. But if you want it to be long-term, don’t rely on just your nobility. Pick something that will keep you coming back even on days you feel less than noble.
And this from Travis Wilson: “The real trick, especially among those of us with yet a long way to go, is finding a way to get rich usefully.”