Like many Americans, my family and I observed the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday this year. I really like that the focus of this holiday includes participating in volunteer events in service to others. It is a great time to reflect on what we are doing to make a difference and how we can be of service. For my husband and me, it’s important that we pass the value of service to our three children.
Serving by providing meals to others
For example, my husband Rob and I started a tradition 20 years ago to spend time before the Thanksgiving holiday volunteering. This is by no means our only day of the year, but it’s one that helps us to keep perspective on how fortunate we are and reminds us that we can all do our part to make a difference. Over the last few years we have spent time at the Los Angeles Mission, preparing and serving meals. Our oldest now goes with us and this year asked if he could invite his basketball team. There are 15 boys on the team and we figured five or six would show up.
Young people want to make a difference too
To my surprise, bright and early at 5:00 a.m., almost the entire team showed up. The sleepy boys were standing out in front of our house ready to go to downtown Los Angeles. Rob and I both loaded up our cars. On the ride down to the mission was pretty quiet, and I have to admit, I was a little nervous about having to worry about watching and supervising these teenagers. Since we have been going to the mission we know that there is always a ton of work that needs to be done in the early morning to prepare 4,000 meals….you take instruction from a lead and dive in!
What happened next was pretty awesome, the boys all made it clear to the head chefs that they were there to work. A few of them said they were good with knives and started chopping away at melon and garlic. Some of them had cranberry sauce duty and some went out on the streets to provide water to the people in skid row waiting in line (there is no public running water/drinking fountains). As I worked beside many of them at different times, I observed these young souls connecting with a different world than what they were typically exposed to on a daily basis and fully embracing it. I observed them see that their work had purpose and that they were no different than the people that live 13 miles from their homes…..just lucky. These boys worked hard and I have no doubt the mission will want them back next year. We had to leave after four hours to get them back since they had their first game that evening. On the car ride home they all asked if we could figure out a way they could stay all day next year. As Rob and I attempted to thank them for coming as we brought them back to their parents, they all just kept thanking us for the opportunity.
The funny thing about teenagers is often we have no idea what is going on in their heads, but we do get these fantastic moments to connect with them….not always sure when it is going to happen, but when it does, you see the glimpses of what amazing human beings they are and what a bright future we have ahead of us.
Culture of service
At Wells Fargo, we have a culture of giving back and being of service to our communities. Our company’s Vision & Values asks that all team members be active community leaders. To further support this culture, the company has volunteer chapters in our local markets that give team members the opportunity to create “volunteer communities” that make a positive impact on their local communities and they align perfectly with our corporate values.