Finding Time to Serve–Your Phone Can Help

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My Grandma used to say, (and my mom repeated it often), “If you have something that needs doing, give it to a busy person.” While that might seem counter intuitive, it is true. When I need to get our cars registered, or help my elderly Mother clean out her gutters—these almost always fit into the flow of my day—even the busiest ones. But give me a day-off, with plans to catch up on some reading or put together a model-airplane with my son, and the simplest of errands can completely disrupt my day. 

Often when I just hear the word “service opportunity” I feel disruption coming on. Because while there are things I can fit into my daily schedule, there is a type of serving that requires more time, more energy, more focus than I normally have to offer. It’s serving in a way that challenges my Grandmother’s adage of, “give it to a busy person.”

This is where my phone comes in. And not just my phone—everyone’s phone can help. In addition to shopping, surfing, scanning and socially connecting—service is another thing we can do every day right on this little device in our pockets. But it’s more than just the simple every day service we might be used to—making phone calls, sending texts, etc. We are talking about service that helps change the lives of people all around the world.

How is this possible? Let me introduce you to two ingenious apps that make doing service as easy as ordering from Dominos.  

Charity Miles

I downloaded this app, signed up, and now when I do my morning run, or my evening walk with my wife and kids, the app tracks the miles. And for ever mile we cover (my wife signed up too), our favorite charities receive money. The app has corporate sponsors who in turn become our sponsors—they pay the charities we pick when we do our daily work-outs. It’s so easy. 

Donate A Photo

When I heard about this—I thought it too easy to be true. But it’s real. And it works. Every day we take a picture (let’s be honest—we take many, many pictures), that we decide we will “donate” through the app. We can post the picture to Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter or just share it to the app’s “donation” site. Either way, the Johnson & Johnson corporation donates $1.00 to our charity.  For every picture. Every day. One picture a day.  

Boom. World-wide service that fits hand-in-glove with how I’m already living my life. And not only are we helping—our lives are enhanced because we have added these apps to our daily activities.  

Since adding “Charity Miles,” we never miss our evening walks. They’ve become too important. We loved doing it before because it gave us exercise, family time, some time outdoors, and it is a great way to get to know our neighbors. But now we know that with every step, every mile, we are helping send money to those in need.  We walk a little further, and we smile a little more. We talk with our kids about how the money helps others—and they each want their own phone so they can sign up as well.  

And we double-dip on our walks as we also take the photos we are going to donate to “Donate A Photo.”  And we take lots of photos—the mountains, the sunset, each other—as we laugh and sweat together. The app doesn’t care what type of picture we donate, but we do. We want to donate something that represents this time when we are thinking about others, and doing our best to serve them. 

The best part truly is the conversations we have with our kids about service. They ask about charities and how they work. They wonder why we have so much and others don’t have anything. We help them see that service isn’t always about money—though these apps are focused there. Together we found other apps that help us serve in an honest, down-to-earth, giving of ourselves.  

The Waze app is a shared-driving-experience app that lets us share what we know and see about the roads and traffic around us with other people who live nearby.  Or even those that simply share our roads. We’ve lived in our home for a few years, and we know all the short-cuts. My wife is also a genius at finding the cheapest gas prices—for every fill-up. This app lets us share this information with everyone else on the app. The app advertises itself as, “A personal heads-up from a few-million of your friends on the road.” 

And we found many, many more.  With these apps, you can donate more than photos and miles. You can donate meals (The Lunchbox), your blood (Red Cross), and even your eyes (Be My Eyes). There are apps for every area of service—from a game that helps your children find empathy for refugees (My Life as a Refugee), to actually helping you find local places to give of your time (Volunteer Match).  

As wonderful as all these apps are—what makes them truly unique and valuable is that they allow us to serve meaningfully without disrupting the flow of our daily live. They allow all of us to join in—to help and lift others in ways we couldn’t have done before. And these apps we’ve listed are just the tip of the iceberg.  

My kids keep asking, “What else can we do?” From my awakened sense of service, they’ve caught the spirit of helping too, and it is changing us in all the most important ways—we talk more, we spend more time together, and we are closer than we were before. And every week when we sit down together, we find time to discuss new apps, and new ways we can serve together.

We’ve never been busier—but that just means we are the very people my Grandma would say should be given the most important tasks. And thanks to my phone, and the service apps available—opportunities to do service have never fit more easily into the ever-increasing flow of my life.