In the past 5 years I have had the distinct honor and privilege of working with some truly wonderful people on several different projects; Girl scouts, community orchestra, community VBS, the local annual festival, and more. I have been told by some people that I’m crazy to give my time and energy to all these endeavors.
My first thought is, “What better things do I have to do?” I could be at home watching reality TV and getting fat from eating pizza (oops! Too late.) but… really… the old, “I don’t have time” thing is just a cop-out for many of us. We have time. We choose to spend it elsewhere. I know moms who are raising their own kids, their grand kids, working full-time, going to college AND serving on some of the same projects as me. I have time. I may as well use a portion of it to the benefit of my community.
My second thought is, “You need to volunteer, too!” Maybe Girl Scouts isn’t your thing but you love the library. Maybe you have a deep bibliophobia but you just love listening to the older generation tell their stories. Maybe you’re too restless to sit in committee meetings but you would be happy to paint the local pre-school co-op.
Can you even begin to imagine what a beautiful place the world would be if we all just chipped in and helped when we see a need that we are willing and able to meet?
If that isn’t a good enough motivation, consider this: It is just about impossible to do something nice for someone else and not reap some reward. Volunteering is selfish. You get all kinds of benefits! Consider these (listed in no particular order):
1. It will increase your property value.
Volunteers create schools that are desirable, parks that are beautiful, activities that are enjoyable. All those things make your town a pleasant place to live, which drives up demand, which means your property values increase.
2. It’s a great way to meet people.
I have met some of the most wonderful and interesting people while volunteering. Some of them have become dear friends. Yes, I’ve met some jerks, too. For the most part, though, people who are volunteering are kind-hearted, passionate, hard-working, generous people. After all, these are people offering their time and talents for free. They are people just like you, now that you have been convinced of the benefits of volunteering.
3. It’s networking at it’s finest.
This is related to #2, but slightly different. In volunteering I’ve met many of the staff of the local schools and churches, local business owners, reporters and politicians. Those people are married to others who manage the nearby factories, run the farms, are published authors, have home school groups and offer music lessons. Those people are related to the folks who cut hair and sit on the bench at the county court and sew costumes for the college theater and schedule appointments at the doctor’s office. When you need something, be it a new zipper on your winter coat or bail money (not that I’ve ever needed that. I’m just saying…) it is a very good thing to know the right people (or at least to know someone who knows them).
4. It sets a wonderful example for your children.
I do not want my kids to grow up feeling “entitled.” That’s hard in America! What better way to teach my children the power of gratitude than by paying forward my thanks for all the people who helped me over the years? They see me working with various groups to create wonderful opportunities for our neighbors knowing that there is no paycheck at the end of the project and they understand that I do it simply because it’s the right thing to do. How do I know this works? I was raised by a mom who volunteered.
5. You’ll like your town more.
You know that thing about your city that makes you crazy? You just wish someone would fix the _____, Maybe you’ve always wanted there to be a _______. Become a volunteer and you’ll become part of the solution. I always wished I could take my kids to the local festival and not spend an arm and a leg on a day’s entertainment. Now I’m on the committee and the festival offers loads of free activities for little kids. Voila! One more thing I love about my town!
6. It’s good for your health.
In my experience volunteering makes you feel good. You are happy that things are being done. You are blessed by seeing people lifted up. You get off the couch and make new friends. We all know there is research that happy people tend to be healthier. Therefore, I have determined with my vast (totally non-existent) scientific skills that volunteering makes you a healthier person.
7. It can save you money.
Volunteers, by definition, don’t get paid. However, there are times when you get perks. Just last week a friend told me she got a free family pass to a nearby fancy-schmancy gym/pool/health club place by volunteering for one shift per week at their service desk. If you have more time than cash, volunteering may be the way to go.
8. It will boost your spirits.
I have found it to be nearly impossible to wallow in self-pity when you’re helping someone else.
9. It will expand your worldview.
I have never served with any organization that did not cause me to grow as a person and stretch my personal boundaries. I’ve been introduced to people of different cultures and religions. I’ve been encouraged to think about issues from the perspective of people in different circumstances than mine. I’ve learned about art and music, religion, business and more – things I may not have ever learned if I’d not given up a bit of my time.
10. Someday, you might be the one who needs a little help.
Plan all you want but we all know what happens. Sometimes it happens in such a way as to hit the fan. When those times come, people who have been out in the community, helping, networking and serving others are often in a better position to ask for help than those who have not. You will know who to call and they will know you. You will know which organizations have the resources you need and how best to apply for them.
11. It’s fun!
I have a blast volunteering! Yes, there are tedious meetings and long-winded phone calls, but it’s not all like that. Last week I sipped drinks in the park with a smart, funny, talented lady who asked me to help her with her volunteer project. During the same week I got to build a knight out of duct tape with one of my favorite people in the world while our kids played together. How can you NOT have fun building life-size duct tape warriors?!
Not sure where to start?
Call 211 and tell them, “I have a heart to help in a certain area. Can you tell me which organizations near me may be looking for volunteers?” Call any church and ask them what they need done. There’s always something! Google “volunteer opportunities in my city.” There are groups that match volunteers to organizations. Maybe you could even volunteer for those groups!
Serving others for free can sometimes be difficult but I’m pretty confident that you’ll find the rewards far outweigh the negatives.
So what are you waiting for?!
Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?
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If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve!