Yes, Actively Serving Your Community Is 100% Your Responsibility.
There is something that I say whenever I am asked to speak on leadership and service and that is this: in the end, the true success of our lives will be measured by what we gave to our world, not what we took from it. That belief is something that was engrained in me as a child, and I believe it with all my heart. In other words, you don’t get to sit on the sidelines and talk about all the things that need to be done in a community, and criticize those on the ground fighting, sacrificing, when you are doing absolutely nothing outside of your comfort zone. You have a responsibility to serve the community in which you live, and the measure of your consistent effort in that arena, says a great deal about your mindset and leadership.
Community service is something that is talked about a great deal and mentioned often haphazardly as if it were just a recreational sport or seasonal activity. That idea, that mentality is not only unacceptable by any true leadership standards, but it’s also dangerous and affects countless lives that you will never know.
Yes, serving your community is serving people. It’s not just buildings, it’s not just roads, it’s not slogans or activities that you only do when they are fun to do. You not serving the community in which you live, work, and raise your children, is showing a level of indifference that I would argue is depraved.
There should be no question as to whether you are responsible for serving your community. The safety, wellbeing, prosperity, and moral standards of how your community treats the least of its citizens, is the responsibility of every soul that inhabits that community. As Saint Theresa of Calcutta so poignantly said:

“At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by "I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.”

What she made very clear, is that everything else you do, pales in comparison to what you give. Your service to your community is not only your responsibility, but a part of the very measure of who you are, and what meaning your very existence has. Our consistent actions tell the story of who we are, so the fact that you could live in a community that you were not willing to constantly make the necessary sacrifices, and give of yourself consistently to making it safer, more just, more prosperous and just to get to know you neighbors who don’t look like you, believe what you believe but live and work in your community as well, then how could you honestly justify that? You can’t. You can make excuses, you can talk about how you don’t have time, you can talk about all the “ideas” you have and all the great silver bullet answers that only you and your friends possess after your protests and coffee shop meetings. But then you must also be honest and say that you have no right to complain about your frustrations in your community, when you willingly chose to consistently do nothing.

If you want to be a leader in your community, if you want to want to be among the numbers of intentional souls who live out love, sacrifice, leadership and courage in their true definitions, then step into that place of awareness of your responsibility to your community, and start right now.

There are several ways to begin, starting with just asking, how can I help? Look up your local United Way and look up the different organizations, and contact one that has a mission and purpose that connects with you. Attend your schoolboard, city/town council meetings, contact your local school system and simply ask do you have any needs that you could volunteer and help with? Get a group of your friends together and commit to every month, no matter what, committing time to making intentional sacrifices to serve your community together. If you have a child in school, just simply ask their teachers, what can I do to support you from a community standpoint. Go to a meeting on the other side of town for a community event with the people in your community who don’t look like you. Contact the Boys & Girls Clubs in your community and ask how can you help? Use your resources and connections towards implementing actions on cleaning up the old buildings, littered streets and eye sores in your community.

One very sad reality, is that according to measures and data across the board, we live in deeply self-segregated communities, so instead of lying to yourself about that fact, be brave enough to be honest about it, and find ways to intentionally set out to build relationships in other neighborhoods of different makeups. Find ways to hold genuine and authentic joint community events and meetings.

The truth is that serving your community, is an important and noble act, but honestly, it’s your responsibility. The social media attacks and disgusting arguments to vent and bully about your frustrations about your community - that’s not service, that’s not strength, that is just what most people do because it’s easy to do and feeds an emotional weak spot. I believe you are stronger than that, I believe and I know that you have that nagging in you that tells you that you should be doing more, that you should be doing something.
Yes, it is your responsibility, so yes, you must act on it. We all are busy, we all have things going on in our personal lives, we all work hard, but serving our communities is a priority and part of the rent we pay to live in a society that affords us that privilege. All the other people who serve in your community consistently, I promise you that they all have personal lives, challenges, fears, frustrations and yet they still make sure they commit themselves to their responsibility.

Stop talking, stop lying to yourself, stop making excuses, stop sitting on the sidelines and get in the arena to help fight to make your community better, and serve your neighbor. Be the change you seek, lead your business or organization in instilling serving your community as a part of your culture, and be an intentional leader in bridging the racial and economic divides in your community, by intentionally building relationships. Stop talking, and just start doing. Just start with asking, how can I help? Then consistently dedicate yourself to the work. Yes, you are responsible, so make it happen, and keep hustling hard and keep fighting forward.
Below is a link video that I was recently privileged to be a part of, helping to tell the story of my community, and talk about how the people here have given me so much, and how we are excited about how we as a community are working towards building an extraordinary future to be proud of. This was an Economic Development video done by a partnership of the City of Rocky Mount and Electricities of NC Inc.