For my blog this time, I have the privilege of interviewing Connor Miller from our church. I caught up with Connor who is quite busy in his young career, but makes a priority of being in service to others. Here is our conversation –
CHRIS: Hi Connor, I’ve appreciated getting to know you a bit around church. Even from a distance one can see you’re somebody who jumps into life with both feet & seem to enjoy rolling up your sleeves to help where it’s needed. I’m wondering who in your past modeled that for you.
CONNOR: Thank you, Chris! It has always been a hope of mine to live my life in a way that makes the world around me better than I found it. When I think back to where I model this behavior from the people that first come to mind are my grandparents, Bob and Barbara. Early on in my childhood I can remember joining my grandparents to help deliver Meals on Wheels, which at the time they were in their 70s. My grandparents continued throughout their lives to model a commitment to service. For example my grandpa for as long as I can remember made wooden toys for the their local Children’s Hospital (Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio) until he was in his 90s and was no longer able to do so. My grandma serviced within her church and as she continued to grow older and her and my grandpa moved into an assisted living facility she still continued to serve others as a volunteer for the welcoming committee. My parents continue to model this behavior in my life, as my father as been an active member of his local Rotary Club and my mother who has assisted with voter registration drives. I am fortunate to have this strong influence through my family and as well as many individuals who inspire me through their own service above self.
CHRIS: You’ve just completed your year-long project of volunteering weekly somewhere in the community. For folks who don’t know, tell us briefly about your adventure.
CONNOR: Yes, I have! For 2017 I decided to volunteer once a week, 52 weeks, with a different nonprofit organization each week. This was an idea I original had back in 2015 and was a yearly goal that continue to come to mind until I decided to commit to it for 2017.
CHRIS: Jesus made a big deal in his teachings about “losing one’s life in order to gain it”, which for me means life takes on spiritual significance in direct proportion to serving needs in others more than ourselves. Can you talk about how this has had spiritual significance for you, and what you may have learned about yourself?
CONNOR: “Losing one’s life in order to gain it” does have a lot of significance to me. To be frank, I had experienced some difficult times towards the end of 2016 which was ultimately a catalyst for me taking on a greater level of service to my community through my volunteer experience, and a greater commitment to my faith. This volunteer experience and greater commitment to my faith has strengthened my connection and bond with friends and family. It has provided me with a sense of empowerment that with their support I am capable of more and greater things.
CHRIS: We United Methodists are notorious for being doers, activists if you will, often more ready to put faith into acts of service than to sit & attend a bible study. At our best, the inner life is to show up in our outer life of servanthood. The founder of our movement is reported to have said something to the effect:
“Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.”
I’m wondering if this could be a mantra for you, & how you view such advice in your current life different from, say, five years ago.
CONNOR: That quote from John Wesley has always resonated with me. The quote reminds me of a related thought that I hope people can take away from my experience – To do what you can to give back to your community. I believed that volunteering once a week for 52 weeks in 2017 was a level of service that I was capable of doing so I made this my goal, but I recognize that there are so many ways that people can give back and do all the good they can. Recognizing the importance of giving what you can, big or small – it all makes a difference. How I view such advice in my current life different from five years ago or even last year relates to a quote from the book The Speed of Trust by Stephen M.R. Covey “We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behavior.” The significance of this quote to me has been to drive me to take actions, even small actions to help bring about the good I wish to see in the world. I hope that other people can feel as empowered to do what they can to bring about the good they also hope to see in the world.
CHRIS: Connor, I’m not sure of your age, but I suspect you fall within the demographic of Millennials (ages 21-37). Marketers describe Millennials as being more idealistic than other demographics; for instance, that your cohorts would be more willing to make a purchase from a company if their purchase supports a cause. Would you agree with that observation? How might a version of your year-long experiment also be appealing to your peers? What do you hear others doing?
CONNOR: That is correct, I do fall into the Millennial age demographic 🙂 I would agree that I have a number of peers within the Millennial age demographic that make very deliberate choices in their product purchasing, means of transportation, etc. to have a the most positive impact they can have on the world. In fact, fellow Central United Methodist churchgoers Jordan and Jennifer Yeatts are a great example of this and have been an inspiration to me to improve my choices to live a more sustainable life. In fact, prior to my 52 weeks of volunteering in 2017 I took on a month of living my life as the Yeatts do which led to sustainable lifestyle changes I still continue to this day. But that’s another story 🙂 As far as how my year of volunteering appealed to my peers, due to the visibility of my Facebook, Instagram Posts (connormillertc), and Volunteer Blog (www.volunteering52.wordpress.com) there were many friends and individuals who reached out to me throughout the year sharing how they have wanted to volunteer and give back but they have had trouble knowing how to get started. As my year of volunteering continued, I found that I became a resource for many individuals to learn how they could connect with nonprofits and/or opportunities to volunteer and give back. It has been inspiring to see many of this individual’s volunteer efforts take off, efforts I became aware of as a result of the visibility of my year of volunteering. One that comes to mind is a project known as Socks of Love, led by Crystal Gober a REALTOR with RE/MAX Bayshore Properties which in 4 years has raised over $21,000 to support local nonprofits through donations made for her handmade sock snowmen around Christmas time. This year Crystal expanded her efforts to made sock Easter Bunnies as well and raised funds to support a local Easter Dinner. Also, I have seen the continued growth of the volunteer committee of the Traverse City Area Young Professionals, recently renamed Fuse, thanks to the leadership of peers Lisa Pointe and Emily Arbut where they participant in at least one volunteer opportunity each month which continues to grow in the number of participants with at least 10 Young Professionals most recently helping out with a Safe Harbor dinner. And these are just a few examples, throughout my year of volunteering I was continually amazed at just how much people care and give in our community. We are very fortunate.
CHRIS: As a closing question, I’d like to know what gives you hope these days.
CONNOR: Interesting question. People are what give me hope these days. When I think back on my year of volunteering what I remember most of all are the people. Those I served and served with. Individuals who give so much to our community that go unnoticed because of their humility. I continue to be inspired by these many individuals who I was fortunate enough to get to know through my year of volunteering and give me great hope for the future.
CHRIS: Connor, I’m thrilled you part of the Church. We learn from your witness. Take Care.