Good For The Soul, Great for the World ~ Volunteerism



Some of my regular readers know I am a Missouri State Basketball Official.  It’s a job I really love to do and at times it helps to make ends meet too. 

I had the opportunity to do some officiating this weekend, volunteer style with a Boys Scouts troop close to Kimmswick, MO.  ( I am not talking about volunteer work that some tournament directors try to make you do when they won’t pay you when they are supposed to – where you have to threaten to go Jazmine Sullivan on them and Bust The Windows Out Your Gym)  I mean real volunteer work where you know up front you won’t get a check.

Anyway, it was my first time in the Kimmswick area, and I remember it most from the Great Flood of 1993 when most of the town was under water.  It’s a small and quite rual area in Jefferson County.  I took my daughter with me and she watched as the troops most of whom don’t play the game on a regular basis run back and forth across the court trying to make a basket.  Of course some kids showed more skill than others.  And there was one who looked just like Lou Ferrigno of the Incredible Hulk television series of the 70s.  I mean he was a good 6’4, built like he could enter and win a strong man’s contest, and could really shoot the rock.  I laughed as he shot three’s, scored easy basket after basket, blocked shots and then finally dunked…. all without smiling one bit except for the jokes I kept shooting at him every time he made another troop mate look bad.

I never joined the boy scouts as a youth.  But I did notice that even as I volunteered on the court, that most of the adults in the building were also volunteers who worked so closely with all of these kids over the years.  The scorekeeper with his scout gear had to be at least 75 years old.  The atmosphere was fantastic and it was a lot of fun.  The unity and spirit of the event was a beautiful thing.

You just can’t put value on taking time out of your busy schedule to volunteer for something worth while.  It’s a good and meaningful thing to give of your time and invest your knowledge into someones life.  People never forget when they are invested in.  And it’s good for your own soul as well to set aside time to give of your expertise without having to receive a monetary reward for it. 

So I encourage you to find something you can do for someone else.  It doesn’t have to be the Boys Scouts, or any other organization though there are many to choose from where the fruit of collective efforts already exist.  It can be something as simple as going grocery shopping for someone whom you know can’t get around as well.  If you are good with your hands, perhaps you can fix something for someone who can’t afford to pay for that kind of service.  Believe me, there are an abundance of opportunities for meeting needs within the community.

To help America be all she has promised, it’s up to us to give of our time and talents to those who need it.  When people are not invested in, we have to pick it up on the back end through detention, jail, or simply a mediocre standard of living.  An investment early into the lives of people will reap a long lasting dividend for all involved. 

Finally, those of us who receive help, (and we all do at times) must make sure we give back and pay it forward.

This will go a long way in helping to make America better!

Commentary from Nafees A. Sayed – by way of

Harvard University student Nafees Syed says both candidates should reach out to Muslims in the U.S.

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts (CNN) — During this election, we have seen the spectacle of two presidential candidates fighting over one voter while snubbing an entire segment of the American population worthy of their attention.

We in the Muslim-American community look wistfully at people like Joe the Plumber, wishing that we too could be courted for our vote by the presidential candidates.

At the same time, we look gratefully at figures like former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who reassure us that there is hope for greater acceptance of Muslim-Americans.

Over time, we grew to expect standoffish treatment from the Republican Party. Almost a decade ago, many Muslims, my parents included, supported President Bush for his humble foreign policy stances, strong family values and reaching out to the Muslim-American community.

Things have obviously changed since September 11, 2001, and we have grown used to anti-Muslim rhetoric from Republican candidates. We have run like refugees to the Democratic Party, only to find reluctant tolerance and hope that we will go somewhere else.

American civil rights activist and intellectual W.E.B. Du Bois wrote, “[The American Negro] simply wishes it possible to be both a Negro and an American, without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of Opportunity closed roughly on his face.”

Over a century later, I and many other Muslim-Americans feel the same, hoping that we can be accepted in America as both Muslims and Americans.

As a college student voting in my first presidential election, I have been inspired by Barack Obama’s call for change. My campus is full of Obama posters, and several of my classmates have taken time off to work for his campaign.

There is no doubt Obama has the Harvard vote, but my vote will not be cast as enthusiastically as others.

This campaign means to me what it means for my classmates. In the next few years, the economy and American foreign policy will affect my generation unlike any other, and those concerns are the primary influences on my vote.

However, as a Muslim-American, I see some issues as more personal. I don’t blame Obama for clarifying that he isn’t a Muslim; if someone misidentified my religion, I would likewise point out the facts, especially if it was part of a larger smear campaign. However, as the first Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison stated, “A lot of us are waiting for him to say that there’s nothing wrong with being a Muslim, by the way.”

Indeed, Obama’s responses to accusations that he is Muslim should be more than just denial; they should be a condemnation of the prejudices that lace such accusations.

When I discuss this issue with fellow Muslim-Americans, especially ones who have dedicated significant time to his campaign, I immediately hear that he’s just doing what he needs to do to win.

I respond skeptically to these arguments. Is it really politically necessary for Obama to avoid visiting mosques — something that President Bush has dared to do — while rallying support from churches and synagogues? Doesn’t his careful distance from the Muslim-American community contradict his message of unity?

Still, others, my parents included, advise that it is best that we as Muslim-Americans avoid marring his campaign with our visible support at a time when any connection with Muslims would jeopardize his chances of winning. They reason that we have to politically isolate ourselves for the better candidate to win, a sacrifice we should make for our country.

I am unwilling to feign political apathy. All I want is for one of the candidates to assure me and the American public that “Muslim” and “American” are not mutually exclusive terms.

Colin Powell’s recent interview with Tom Brokaw has left me with some hope. He highlights the flaw in the question of Obama’s religion with the answer, “he is not a Muslim; he’s a Christian. … But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America.”

To prove his point, Gen. Powell recounted the story of Purple Heart- and Bronze Star-winning Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, an American soldier in Iraq who sacrificed his life for his country. He represents a Muslim-American community that is dedicated to its country and worthy of the presidential candidates’ attention and respect.

It is a tribute to Gen. Powell’s own dedication to his country that he would take note of the treatment of Muslim-Americans during the elections.

Thanks, Gen. Powell. You said the words that Muslim-Americans around the country were waiting to hear.