Photo by Barry Schwartz
There are all kinds of assumptions about the act of “giving back”, and one is that it’s done for free, but that seems too limiting. Giving back can take all kinds of forms, including getting paid, like a job working for a charity or non-profit, where the trade is usually less pay but more satisfaction.
Another assumption is there’s some strong reason to be of service; that you’re operating outside your normal range of activity for a particular reason, that there’s something special involved. But service doesn’t really have to be about whether it’s free or paid or something special. Whatever drives one to be helpful is part-and-parcel of who you are.
I’ve given back in all kinds of ways, from free advice on kitchen design (which I used to do professionally) to serving on a board (which I had never done before). The work might seem to involve different skills, muscles, passions, but they all had one thing in common: me and what I care about, and it didn’t matter if I was helping set up chairs for a program or doing pro-bono work for a charity.
I approach pro-bono work with the same intention I do my paid work: do it well, make it matter, make it interesting, and for something I actually care about. No difference.
Bob Dylan had it right in his song, “Gotta Serve Somebody”. It’s about being yourself and it’s about the higher calling. Really, no difference at all.