According to Aristotle, the famous philosopher, “the essence of life is to serve others and do good.” That’s what volunteering is all about. By raising your hand, you can volunteer in your community in no time! When I stopped working at a paying job, I found new opportunities to connect with others by donating my time to causes I believe in. Time seems to be the most valuable thing we can give. Others have also proven this to be true. According to recent statistics, one in four adults in the United States contributes to their communities by becoming a volunteer. Not only does it help others in need, but volunteers also benefit themselves in many important and surprising ways.
Volunteering Helps You Connect to Your Community
One of the biggest social problems we face today is a lack of connection. By being a volunteer in your community, you can establish immediate and rewarding connections with others. Ultimately, you have the chance to help your community become a better place as well. And the added bonus of discovering like-minded individuals and making new friends can be really enjoyable. Volunteering will likely expand your social skills in the process. In my experience as a volunteer, I had to deal with diverse populations in situations beyond my usual comfort level. Such challenges helped me grow as an individual while strengthening my identity as a community member. Most of all, I learned the value of relationships and how important it is for individuals to be a part of something greater than themselves. As the author Herman Melville reminds us:
“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men.”
Volunteering Can Increase Mental and Physical Health
It’s hard to feel depressed, lonely, or in a bad mood when you’re helping someone in need. So often, I’ve found that participating in volunteer activities helps me feel better about myself. This leads to having a more positive outlook on life. If you focus on serving others, feelings of isolation and anxiety take a necessary back seat. Just knowing that you’re making a difference in someone’s life can be enough to put a smile on your face!
If you are able to participate in them, certain types of volunteer work can also improve physical health. For example, these days I get a real workout at our local food rescue, unloading trucks, carrying boxes, pushing carts, and stocking shelves. In fact, it’s a better workout than I could get at the gym! But you don’t even have to be in great physical condition to be an effective volunteer. Even those with disabilities or health problems can serve the community using a home computer or telephone. It may sound too good to be true, but some studies show that doing volunteer work might even decrease symptoms of chronic pain or heart disease. Speaking of the heart, famous radio host Bernard Meltzer offers this bit of wisdom:
“There is no better exercise for your heart than reaching down and helping lift someone up.”
Literally, anyone who has a desire to help can volunteer in the community and reap positive health rewards!
Volunteering in Your Community Lets You Practice New and Existing Life Skills
Everyone has some sort of skill that can be shared for the benefit of others. Some of us are good at administrative tasks, others have a talent for working outdoors or doing physical labor. Some have experience with animals or children, others are experts at dealing with the elderly. When you volunteer in your community, you can find ways to use skills you’ve acquired in past or current jobs. But you can also learn new skills, adding novelty to your work and maybe even leading to new career interests.
I’ve felt very comfortable volunteering to create press releases for a local organization because I’ve spent years as a professional writer. However, when I offered to help in the kitchen of a homeless shelter, I found that I had a lot to learn! Even though I’d been cooking for the family most of my life, the experience of preparing meals for a very large population in a commercial setting was totally new to me. Fortunately, I worked with some very patient staff members willing to teach me the skills I needed to be a successful kitchen volunteer.
So you see, when you volunteer in your community, it’s a good idea to remain open to new experiences and be willing to learn from others. While I may never have a career as a famous chef, at least I know what’s involved in a large scale kitchen operation. I’m also confident that I can volunteer in that capacity again with greater ease!
Volunteering Sharpens Your Sense of Purpose
We all desire to be wanted and needed by others. This is a universal human trait. When you volunteer your time and talents in your community, you have the opportunity to experience greater fulfillment in life through service to others. Living a life with purpose is key to happiness, and volunteering can be a component in creating a more meaningful and satisfying life for both you and the people you help along the way. We are here to lift each other up in whatever manner we can. Participating in that action speaks dramatically to our hearts and minds. As inspirational speaker Kurek Ashley states:
“The quality of your life will be determined by the quality of your contribution. When you work to improve the lives of others, your life improves automatically.”
Right now, just as you are, you are needed by someone. Visualize for a moment someone waiting especially for you. Don’t depend on others to do the work of reaching out and lending a hand to those in need. Let it be you who answers the urgent call. Take a look at what you might contribute as you begin your journey as a volunteer in your community. Even small efforts can make a huge difference to someone. American author Leo Buscaglia once said this so beautifully:
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”
Start small. Then go for it. You may see miracles happen. Volunteer in your community now!
If you’d like to read more about volunteering check out this blog: The Benefits of Giving Back: Why Volunteering is Good For You