Name: Josh Lieberman
Day job: Talent agent at CAA
Organization of choice: Chrysalis, a nonprofit that helps homeless and low-income people become job ready by providing employment resources and support.
I got exposed to Chrysalis through attending the Butterfly Ball, their annual fund-raiser. After about five years of going to it, my wife suggested I do more than give money. I was thinking I should volunteer, but I said, “Honey I’m such a busy person.” She said it would be good for my soul to volunteer. I decided to check it out, and it’s been an incredible experience to witness what goes on there.
I planned on volunteering every month, but now I’m doing it for two hours every two weeks. It’s hard to find the time but I’ve made finding it a priority.
When I volunteer, I meet with two clients [homeless or low-income individuals looking for jobs] for an hour each. I try to talk to them about how to answer difficult interview questions—whether they have committed a crime or been in prison. You are trying to talk them out of any shame so that they can express that they have done something wrong, paid a debt to society, and are ready to move on. It’s about making people feel like they have someone willing to help. The sense I have is they just need someone to give them a pep talk before they go in for an interview.
When my time at Chrysalis is up, I leave with a great high, and I don’t want to go back to work. When I’m in a cubicle with someone there I find I can’t think of anything but them. It’s impossible to think of your own problems, almost. That experience is great because I have an interesting, confusing, turbulent life. It gives me perspective.
Today my wife loves to tell our kids about my volunteering. She love to talk about it. She is more religious than I am, and she believes I’ll be taken care of as a result of the good deeds I’ve been doing.
From one volunteer to another, just observe. Take it all in. You can’t pretend to have an idea of what you should be doing until you watch someone else do it several times. I watched two different people hold sessions with clients before I did one on my own.
Los Angeles magazine’s “Public Service Announcement” series features a local volunteer every other week at CityThink