Anyone who works in a financial field knows what a return on investment, or ROI, is. Essentially, it’s how much money you net on an investment. Say, for example, you buy $1,000 worth of stocks this year and sell your shares next year for $1,500. Your net profit is $500, and your ROI is, thus, 50%. Hooray for you!
There’s another kind of ROI that’s much harder to calculate, and it has little or nothing to do with money. It has everything to do with investing, however.
Every day, we choose how to spend our time, energy, love, words, and deeds. When you choose to invest your resources in other people, you reap an ROI that is worth more than any amount of money can buy.
All of us hurt. Not one of us escapes the trials and heartaches of our brief existence on this planet. We’re all haunted by ghosts: regrets that gnaw at our souls, shameful behavior, mistakes we could have avoided, good advice we rejected, years spent on every detour that led us farther from our dreams. We all need kindness, respect, hope, and reassurance that we haven’t screwed up our lives beyond recognition and redemption.
What’s your ROI when you invest in lifting others up and encouraging them? It’s indeterminate and incalculable. It may take a few days or months or even years. You may not even see the results in your lifetime. But when you change one person’s life for the better, you set in motion a positive ripple effect that theoretically may have no end.
How do you reap your human ROI? Look around you. Then simply show up and care.
Help serve meals at your local Salvation Army, homeless shelter, or church outreach event. The more often you serve, the more opportunities you have to get to know people on a deeper level than just in passing. Learn their names and their stories. Pray with them. Offer a ride to church. Press a few dollars into someone’s hand for a bus pass to get to a job interview. Buy a much-needed coat when the weather turns cold.
Volunteer at your child’s school. More than likely, there will be at least one child in his class whose clothes are a bit shabby, who lacks basic hygiene, or who is lagging behind the other students. Befriend that child. Read with him. Take a sincere interest in him. Tell him what a miracle he is. Maybe no one at home takes much notice of him. Your smile may be the highlight of his day or whole week. Your compassion and encouragement may mean more than you’ll ever know.
Visit your local jail or youth center and become a mentor to a teenager or young adult who needs to know it’s not too late to turn his life around. Share your story honestly and without shame. Share your mistakes and regrets. Talk about how you did the work to get to the high road and what it takes to stay there. You’re living proof that it can be done and that no one is beyond hope.
Visit people who are confined to a hospital or a nursing home or are homebound. You might never feel alone or lonely, but countless people struggle with feeling abandoned, overlooked, and hopeless every minute of their lives. More than likely, there’s at least one person in your own neighborhood who feels forgotten. Stop by, deliver a treat, chat for a while.
Time is not money. It’s free. But you can’t get back the time you waste, and you can’t buy more. We all get the same 24 hours every single day. Choose wisely how you spend your time. Be deliberate. Make it count.