The morning of October 20th was chilly and gray clouds crowded the sky and threatened rain. It was the kind of Saturday one would enjoy under layers upon layers of blankets next to a fireplace. Nevertheless, thousands upon thousands of people took to the streets of Baltimore in one of the largest marathon events in the whole region. Thanks to Carey Business School, and specifically thanks to Corey Meyers (Carey Academic Advisor), I was blessed to take part in this marathon as a volunteer—an experience that was not only refreshing but also reflective and fulfilling.
A month or so before the marathon, Corey Meyers asked if I would be interested in being part of Carey’s volunteering team at one of the marathon’s water stops. I was definitely interested in being more involved with Carey and serving the community. In a more abstract sense, however, this opportunity simply promised happiness. As my mother would say, happiness could be achieved through giving. Giving my Saturday morning away for such an event—dedicated to noble and contemporary causes—was the most fulfilling thing I did since I landed in Baltimore.
On that day, I was delighted to see some of my friends there—Shaima Alahmadi, Yingjun Peng, and Wnsiyu Ding. Volunteering with friends makes the experience more valuable because it nurtures a unique sense of camaraderie spurring from synergetic work and a homogenous goal. At the stop, we all looked like a swarm of bees working to the tunes of music (fortunately there was a nearby band playing on stage.) Every individual was assigned a task: some were responsible for setting up cups, others poured water and Gatorade into the cups, and few prepared the snacks station. In this collaborative, warm, and energetic ambiance (despite the freezing weather) one could not help but feel excitement and happiness. By 9:00 AM, we were ready for our first runner.
What followed provided me with an opportunity to reflect as well as to practice my business acumen. As the first runner snatched a cup from my hand—spilling half of it—and began to gulp what was left, a momentary rush of excitement and euphoria took over me. I turned quickly to the table to take another cup and extend my hand as far as it could extend into the running lane, in anticipation of the next thirsty runner. However, following the first one, not many participants were taking my offered water. Why was that?
The other tables were distributing their cups at a much faster rate. After observing the dynamic for some time, I realized that our diminishing “sales” were due to location. Our table was the last in a procession of three tables, meaning that most of the runners had already quenched their thirst before reaching us. Our table had to revamp its “marketing strategy,” or we would end up spending a lot of time emptying the full 3-story stack of water cups we spent an hour and half filling. Therefore, we decided to adopt a new strategy: louder and smarter calls coupled with a closer proximity to the lane. This lured more runners to our table and we were finally able to distribute a considerable amount of water cups.
The whole experience was great and rewarding. I was glad that I signed up and actually woke up early to participate. As students, our time is a scarce commodity. Therefore, it is paramount to choose wisely how to spend the few free hours per week that we have. Volunteering, especially for local events, is a great way to unplug and recharge, thus enhancing our mental wellbeing. Furthermore, volunteering contributes to our success by showcasing our commitment to giving back to our community.