Alexandria in Action: Following your passion

Alexandria in Action: Following your passion

By John Porter

“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” – Jackie Robinson

When my youngest son was entering the workforce a number of years ago, he commented on how a large percentage of people go to work each day hating their jobs. Obviously, he was concerned that he would end up being one of these individuals who did the right thing each day, but took no joy in doing it.

Never shy in offering fatherly advice, I commented on how it was a shame that anyone spent their life not doing what brought them happiness or, at minimum, satisfaction at the end of the day. We discussed how I looked forward to each day as a new challenge and how I enjoyed my work at that time with high school students at T.C. Williams. And while this didn’t mean that each day was enjoyable, the overall satisfaction of playing a small role in the
growth and development of young people certainly brought many rewards — for them and for me.

I certainly have been lucky in my work life, first with the school system and now with ACT for Alexandria, both of which provided the opportunity to help others, to make a difference and to go home most evenings satisfied with my day’s work.

While I can’t imagine going through life not doing what generally brings fulfillment, satisfaction or joy, I do understand that not every profession offers these opportunities. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t approach our jobs with the desire to perform well, but it may signal the need to look elsewhere to find and develop our passions — the things we care most about.

In both of my careers, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with many people searching for that passion, that opportunity to make a difference in someone else’s life. And while most are not in position to change careers, they understand the intrinsic need for fulfillment and the search that must take place to meet this need.

If you have already discovered what you are passionate about, you have probably already taken steps to act on those feelings. You may be teaching, tutoring a child, distributing food to those in need, serving on a city commission or helping remodel homes for the elderly or disabled. Good for you and great for those with whom you work.

If you haven’t discovered what you are passionate about, there’s no time like the present to do so. And there are a number of us who might be of help. As a community foundation, we work with many nonprofits looking for individuals like you. We’d be happy to meet with you, help you focus in on what you care about, and make connections for you to pursue these interests.

Or you may want to take a different route and consider volunteer opportunities through Volunteer Alexandria ( not just for the immediate help your volunteerism would provide, but also as part of your search for what you truly care about and where you might have the most impact. I also suggest face-to-face meetings with nonprofit leaders of organizations in your areas of interest to help further pin down where you might
be of most value.

It is human nature to want to make a difference. Unfortunately, in today’s fast paced world, we are sometimes so caught up in the day-to-day that we don’t take time to do what is most important, both for us and for others. While it’s never too late to shift gears in this direction, each day brings one less day to do so — one less day to act on what you really care about. I encourage you not to let another day slip by without finding your passion and following it.

The writer is the president and CEO of ACT for Alexandria.