Life experiences are often the best teachers and influencers of how we form our values and priorities. This has become powerfully evident in the mindful way that Fatema Chaklasi and her family volunteer within their own community of middle Tennessee.
Inspired by their own modest origins in Mumbai and their move to the United States to continue their education, Fatema and her husband, Murtuza, are keenly aware that many people have unmet needs, and they are determined to be intentional about helping others who are less fortunate.
They’ve come to adopt the motto “Not everyone can do everything, but everyone can do something.” And so, over time, the Chaklasi family have used their talents and resources in a wide variety of community service programs. They tend to gravitate toward options that allow them to volunteer as a family so they can include their two children, Maria and Ali. The family’s volunteer work has ranged from musical performances for assisted living residents, sorting and preparing food for the Second Harvest Food Bank, and providing Christmas gifts to residents of “My Friends House” which provides a home for teenage boys whose parents have been displaced.
Through her participation with all these community services, Fatema has come to realize that while volunteers receive instant gratification from their involvement, the impact for the recipient can last a lifetime. She shares that her family continues to learn new lessons in humility with each of these encounters as they are constantly reminded of all the basic things that so many of us take for granted.
One such encounter left a lasting impression on Fatema. She and her daughter were volunteering for “Shower Up”, a mobile service with the goal of restoring hope and dignity by offering showering and personal care facilities for the homeless. The volunteers clean and prep the mobile facility between each use and also interact with the clients as they wait their turn.
During one interaction with a man waiting to use the mobile service, Fatema asked why this service was important to him. He shared:
“When I’m in there, I have a place that I can call my own.”
To Fatema, this was a powerful reminder that basic needs, such as a daily shower, are things that many of us take for granted. By giving just a few hours of their time, they were able to provide something important and life-impacting for people in need.
Fatema and her family have come to believe that while not everyone can give money to support a cause, anyone can give the gift of time and for people that are passionate about a cause it’s not about “having time” it’s about “making time.” Through this simple sacrifice, time becomes a gift. She encourages everyone to “be that someone” who is willing to give the gift of time.