Last year Douglas Vander Linde went from a "career that was about taking assets from others and managing them" to giving away his talents for an entire year.
Mr. Vander Linde was a senior vice president of large defined contribution plan sales for Putnam Investments, Boston. He said he made a promise to God early in his career that if he won a major final from a big client, he would dedicate a year of his life to charity. He didn't win the final, but he realized "this wasn't a debt to be paid, but rather a gift to be given."
It took a decade of planning, but Mr. Vander Linde, his wife, Julie, and their three children went to Rome in February 2000 as volunteers representing Campus Crusade, an international interdenominational ministry, during Jubilee 2000, a worldwide celebration of faith. Putnam granted Mr. Vander Linde a yearlong leave of absence.
The Vander Lindes hosted 90 teams of Americans who came to Rome as service volunteers. The teams, each ranging from five to 75 people, visited the refugee camps surrounding Rome, where they played guitars, talked to people and brought them bibles. They also brought teachers to orphanages, and cleaned, repaired and painted houses and churches, and distributed 1.2 million Bibles in five languages. The Vander Lindes also were the representatives of the Campus Crusade at many official events in Rome and worked closely with Vatican staff on press conferences and radio talk shows.
"It really changes your life when you sit down with someone who is a refugee from Iraq. You ask him how he got to Rome, and he says, `I walked.' It is just life-altering." Mr. Vander Linde.
"From a guy who had 140 airline flights in 1999, this was an unbelievable shift in life," Mr. Vander Linde said.
The experience changed the lives of the Vander Linde family. The 10-year-old twins, a boy and a girl, speak fluent Italian. And the youngest son, now 3, spends as much time as he can with his dad, who is in less of a hurry to rush off to his job, now as manager, direct asset management sales at Northern Trust Global Investment Services, Chicago.
"It became obvious after nine months that this would be just a year's project, that this was not my calling. But my professional life here is actually easier than my life was in Italy," Mr. Vander Linde said. "We thought at first that we would transform Italy through our work. But it also became obvious that the Americans were the ones most affected."