One of the most gratifying things we can do with our time is volunteering to help another. There are so many benefits you will derive when you become a volunteer: It feels great to make someone else’s life a little brighter. It’s food for the soul. It is an opportunity to use your own gifts and talents in ways that you may not be able to express in your regular job. Being appreciated for all that you do is very uplifting. When you see other people’s challenges, it really helps to put your own life and problems into perspective. And, it fulfills the basic human need to know that you have made a difference in the world, that you will be remembered for doing something that truly mattered.
The first thing you need to do is decide what you have a passion for or what special talents you have that you could utilize in helping others. There are lots of volunteer opportunities through non-profit organizations such as working with hospice, a women’s shelter, a homeless shelter or food bank, animal rescue centers, etc. Figure out what cause calls to you the most. Do you like working with children, animals, the elderly, out in nature? It doesn’t matter whether you can donate your time weekly, monthly, or only a few times a year. It all counts.
Volunteering to help others doesn’t have to be through an organized agency. Maybe you have someone in your own neighborhood who is in need. You could visit a homebound neighbor and just sit and have a conversation with them. You could offer to cook a meal for someone who is going through a hard time. You could offer free babysitting help to a frazzled single parent on your street. The possibilities are endless.
Even if you are at a point in your life where you don’t have a moment to spare, you can still get into the spirit of giving in ways that don’t take any time at all. Never underestimate the gift of treating people with kindness, or the power of a smile. You can make someone’s day with the smallest of gestures. In some cases, it might be the only kind-heartedness they experience that day.
One of my passions is helping children. For a few years I volunteered at a local children’s shelter one morning a week. One day, a new little boy who was about 4 years old arrived at the shelter. The shelter kept clothes in various sizes for all of the children who were housed there, but they didn’t supply shoes. The children would just have whatever pair they had on when they arrived. This particular little boy, I will call Timmy, had tennis shoes with laces that had been broken in many places and then they were knotted back together. They had become so short from all of the knots that they no longer could lace through all of the holes. As a result, whenever he tried to run and play with the other children, he kept stepping right out of his shoes and had to stop and slide them back on. I made a mental note to pick up a new pair of shoelaces at the store that week.
Sure enough, when I returned a week later for my shift, Timmy’s shoes were still in that dilapidated state. I called him over to me and had him sit down and take off his shoes so that I could string his new shoelaces for him. His eyes just kept getting wider and wider as I worked on his shoes. He asked me where I got the laces, and I told him I picked them up at the store for him. Once I had the shoes laced up and back on his feet, I told him that now he could run and play with the kids and not worry about losing his shoes. He looked up at me with a huge smile and said, “I love you!”, and ran off to play. The shoelaces only cost a dollar or two. But the impact they had on that little boy’s day was priceless! It truly is better to give than to receive!