Monday, December 29, 2008

Of Givers and Takers

After reading the post entitled "Keeping the Fire Alive," Dave Sherman added this comment:

...I have come to a crossroads in my own blogging. I am transitioning from a school district owned blog to my own personal blog so that I can write about more than just school related topics. I am struggling a little with this because does anyone really care about my interests away from education, and should that matter to me? Do we blog for ourselves or for others?...
- Dave

Dave's question is a pretty significant one...do we blog for ourselves or for others? I just hope my answer remotely approaches being as good as the question.

We blog for ourselves
For centuries, people have kept diaries in which they have recorded their private thoughts, thoughts for their eyes only. There seems to be something about the act of writing our thoughts on paper that clarifies those thoughts in our own minds. If I am forced to write it in such a way that it would be understandable to someone else, even if that never happens, then I am forced to make it understandable to me.

There is also a permanence about putting those thoughts to paper. They never change. We can revisit them, and in essence, step back in time for a brief moment. Later, if we choose to share those thoughts, the diary's many entries paints a portrait of who we are and who we hoped to become.

Today's blogs afford us that same opportunity with the added benefit of access from anywhere, ability to add media, and no chance of dropping it in a mud puddle leaving it on the counter at the grocery store checkout.

We blog for others
By nature, we are interdependent creatures. Our society has reached its present level of advancement not because we are smarter or more resourceful than our forefathers. Instead, we are able to begin where they left off and lay the next layer on the foundation they have built. We have been the ultimate takers reaping the benefits of their work.

On a personal level, any of us who have experienced success in the various arenas of our lives can surely point to someone else who made the road easier. Someone saw in us potential worth nurturing and went out of their way, doing what they did not have to do, to help spin straw into gold. We took very freely from their wisdom.

If balance is to be maintained, we must move beyond being takers and also be givers. We all have something to share, something to give back, and someone somewhere who has a need which matches perfectly with our gift. Our blogs offer an easy way for us to become givers.

Does anybody really care?
Perhaps the toughest part of blogging is knowing whether or not what we do makes an impact on anyone else. Of course, the same could be said of other venues. I am reminded of a workshop conducted years ago for a group of teachers, none of whom I knew at the time on a personal level. Nine years later when one of them became a close friend I was told, "You changed my life" through that workshop. The feedback makes all the difference, and it is that element that tends to be missing.

We must write as if what we say does matter, because that's the only way that it will matter to us or anyone else. At the very worst, our blogs provide for us an outlet for our own creative juices. At the very best, they just might be changing lives, even in subtle ways, for people we may never meet. And in that delicate balance between being givers and takers, we may see ourselves begin to hold up our end.
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