I finally started volunteering! No, it was not my first time and it won’t be my last. Most of life, we do things for people expecting something in return. When you say good morning or hello to someone, there is an expectation that the other person will return the greeting or acknowledge you. The acknowledgment may be a nod, smile, wave or a verbal response such as hello, good morning or good day.
Volunteering just promotes good or improves the quality of life in a community. When do you have a chance to do some good or improve a community’s quality of life? You get to work with other like minded people to help improve your community. You can pick the organization that has the goals you want to accomplish through volunteering and do something good right away. The traditional way of helping your community is giving of clothes, furniture or food to organizations to distribute to the community. The next step is to get personally involved.
When I was consulting, I sometimes did consulting work for non-profit organizations. Before I started my first assignment, I thought you needed special skills. It turns out that all organizations need people with different sills. This experience gave me the confidence to tackle new projects because it made me realize I had more skills to draw on to solve problems. Non-profit organizations are different from private industry because they attract people of passion for the organization’s goals.
I joined an organization that makes food for the homeless. Then they distribute the food to the homeless people in the Los Angeles area. My wife volunteers for the same organization and actually makes the sandwiches or portions the soup. In July, I joined with other volunteers, to help pass out the food to nearly 1,000 people. I went with no expectations, but was curious as to how they did it. Interestingly, they go to where the homeless congregate versus distributing the food at a shelter. Much to my surprise, it was much more orderly than I would expect and they were very appreciative for the food.
Participation as an organization is different from buying a sandwich and giving it to a homeless person. All the volunteers work well together. There are adults, mostly women and high school students that participate. The couple that started the non-profit has been doing this for years and has it well organized. Working with other people to accomplish a higher goal creates a relationship and interdependence. We may all have different backgrounds, professions and other differences, but we are united because of this purpose of feeding the homeless.
I learned a lot about myself! I, like most of us is caught up in my own personal goals and daily life. Volunteering takes you out of your routine and makes you realize that there is something you can do to help people in your community. Those few hours on Sunday morning pushed everything out of my mind to deal with what was before me. Whether it was the loading of the vans or trucks with food or passing it out once we got there. Everybody moved almost seamlessly from unloading to stacking the boxes to passing out the food. As we passed out the food, others broke down the boxes and loaded them back on the truck. We went to several locations that morning until the food was gone.
I spent a few hours with some really great people who took time from their lives to do something for the community. I am now a part of the same organization. I have a strong feeling of accomplishment in another area of my life. I want to continue volunteering and see where I can contribute in different ways. After I became a teacher, I see how I make a difference in a young person’s life. Now I am have an opportunity to make a difference in my community. When you reach out to new opportunities, there are unexpected benefits. It ranges from networking, having a direct impact on your community, learning new skills and finally affecting your own life positively.
I started volunteering as a way to be more involved than just writing a check. Besides, it was one of my 2012 goals that I deferred until now! I learned very quickly that I am getting much more from volunteering than the three hours I will give once a month. It has literally changed my life! I see people differently; the people on the street are no longer anonymous or invisible. Although I only volunteered once, it changed me. I expect to do more volunteering because I want to continue it into retirement. My interest has turned into a passion and who knows what happens from here. I started volunteering to make a difference and it changed me!
Photo by: planeta