I’m sandwiched between two national holidays as I write this — the one celebrating the creation of the Dominion of Canada on July 1, 1867 and the one celebrating the Declaration of Independence of 13 British colonies on July 4, 1776. So I’m hip-deep in lots of discussion about who’s taking time off this week, who’s doing what for the holiday, who did what, where they were, etc.
And spang in the middle of all that happy online chatter, came an email titled “LibriVox needs your help.” And that got me thinking. First, some background on what the heck Librivox is and why it needs help.
First, Librivox is one of those classic Internet things. Back in 2005, some people who had equal interests in books and in audio thought it might be fun to put up free versions of public domain books online. Kind of an audio version of Project Gutenberg. The project took off, and since those first faltering steps, more than 40,000 people have volunteered to help put 7,000 books online in 29 languages. Those books have seen more than one hundred million downloads. That is amazing.
But a hack two years ago meant that Librivox had to ask for donations to help recover their cobbled-together technical infrastructure. And while the site is up and solid, they see now that they need a more concerted technological fix.
That’s something I can get behind.
Two more examples.
Last year, someone filched my beloved Opus road bike. This was a crappy thing to have happen, and I was in the nether region of not having a bike so amazingly expensive to make it worth claiming on my insurance, but expensive enough that replacement was going to hurt. Out of nowhere, a group of online friends pulled together donations out of a “secret kitty” and sent me some money to help buy that replacement bike. That same group has helped others who have had financial setbacks, emergency vet bills, and the like.
And here in Ottawa (and in dozens of other cities) a group called Awesome Ottawa gives out small grants, no strings attached, for cool ideas. Some are serious (a bike-sharing program called Rightbike) and some are just fun (a pool party in a dumpster in Ottawa’s Byward Market).
What do all these three examples have in common? Generosity. Generosity in terms of money, and of time. Social media has enabled giving and volunteering to be recreated in ways that could only be imagined 25 years ago. But that’s only good if you use the tools; if you actually GIVE YOUR TIME OR MONEY. If you think the Librivox idea is a good one (and how could you not? Books? Audio? Free?), help them out. It doesn’t take much. Many little donations are as good as one giant one.
If you’re not so hot on the Librivox, then find something else that gets you excited, and dedicate some time to it, or give them some money, or both. On average, we Canadians, and you Americans, live in circumstances that most of human history would describe as unimaginably luxurious. We owe it to the people who have gone before, to those who will come after, and to ourselves to give a little. It WILL make you feel good.