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Ben LeRoy: "Volunteering outside of your comfort zone means volunteering for and in service to people we disagree with politically and we might have problems with."

For the fifth year, Cap Times reporters asked several Madisonians to share their "bright ideas" for the new year. We will publish the 2018 edition of Bright Ideas throughout the next week.

My biggest philosophical imperative is that we are in troubled times. We are a fractured people as humans. The best way for us to address the fracture and to build a better world going forward is to be in service to one another and in the community. It means volunteering outside of your comfort zone. It means volunteering for and in service to people we disagree with politically and we might have problems with. It’s a two-way street that gets opened up and they see us as not a caricature. We develop a personal relationship. We are able to see the human in there.

If people volunteer four hours in their community, I’m editing the first 25 pages of their novel.

When you volunteer it does two important things: it gives you this high, because your soul is getting filled in this meaningful and beautiful way — “Oh, this is why I’m on earth, this is what being a human is about.” It also sets a positive example for those around us and were unsure how to get a foot in the door.

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I would like to see more businesses follow in that lead of rewarding people who are being active in their community.

So service providers whose sunk cost is time, you would be able to provide community and bonding over something that isn’t the echo chamber. It takes a step back from the bottom line and is an investment in the community. If you say you want to make Madison a better place, you can.

If every massage therapist said, “I’ll donate one hour a month in exchange for someone who does four hours of volunteering,” you would help the people who are being served by the volunteers, help the volunteers and help the community by fostering genuine relationships over positive things.


Katelyn Ferral is The Cap Times' public affairs and investigative reporter. She joined the paper in 2015 and previously covered the energy industry for the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. She's also covered state politics and government in North Carolina.