The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.
— Mahatma Gandhi
“What does this penny filled paper weight have to do with volunteering?” you ask. If you look very closely, perhaps you can make out the year on the pennies: 1974. I was 14 years old. This paper weight was a gift of thanks from a Sunday School teacher, after I spent one morning a week for most of a school year, assisting in her class. She wanted me to remember my year of service. Little did she know, she planted a seed.
Volunteerism has been a common thread through the ages and stages of my life. In my young adult years, my volunteering included walk-a-thons and Special Olympics. As a parent of young children I moved on to Sunday School teacher, parent classroom volunteer, Girl Scout Leader, and school library volunteer. (My children are grateful I did not volunteer as a coach for their sports teams – as my talent for any sport that involves a ball is nonexistent.) My accounting skills were offered when I served as board member and treasurer of our local chapter of the American Red Cross, and as treasurer for our church. More recently, I share my love of hiking, volunteering with my husband, Peter, as Information and Program volunteers for the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) in their lodges and huts. And, as I have previously shared, I also currently volunteer as a yoga teacher.
Why? Why share our time and talents, gifts and resources, with no financial benefit or reward? Perhaps for a cause that we are passionate about, a desire to make a contribution in our own community, or to share a needed talent or skill. While the reasons are varied and personal to each one of us, in short, we volunteer to make a difference.
While volunteering does not reap financial rewards, it may provide benefits to us emotionally, socially, and even physically and professionally. Volunteering may
- cause us to feel more connected to others
- build community and cultivate friendships
- lead to feelings of gratitude for our blessings
- reduce social isolation and feelings of loneliness
- increase self-esteem and confidence
- instill a sense of purpose
- reduce stress.
In these tumultuous times, in our unsettled world, volunteerism may be just what we need – to do our small part – to make the world a better place. To find and to create good in our communities and beyond.
Consider leaving a reply below to share the ways you volunteer your time and talents, information about organizations in need of volunteer assistance, or unique volunteer opportunities.