By Megan Friedman
As I’m sitting down to write this, I have a stack of mail next to my desk. It’s that time of year with the inevitable pleas for donations for a variety of charities. It got me thinking about the charities and how they are not only looking for monetary donations, they need people too. People who will do the mundane things like answer the phones, clean the dog kennels or stuff the envelopes.
It made me wonder- what is it that motivates some people to take time out of their busy lives to give to a cause? Are they less busy than everyone else? Are they more driven, kinder, more generous than the average Joe? No, they ARE the average Joe or Jane. And they all have reasons of their own for volunteering.
Some volunteer to give back, to repay a type of debt they feel they owe. Perhaps it’s the successful recovery from a life-threatening illness or as a favor to an organization that helped them change their life. Maybe it’s the need to exercise their mind, or to meet people who share common (and perhaps unique or unusual) interests. Maybe it’s to be part of a larger community, to feel connected to something bigger than themselves and their daily lives.
I think about the reasons why I have spent so many hours volunteering. I think it’s a combination of reasons. Growing up, service to others was not something that was instilled in us. But as an adult, I felt a pull, something telling me to get out and do something. It was telling me that I did, in fact, have the time to give, and yes, despite what I may have thought, I did have something to offer.
I spent hours in the emergency department of Children’s Hospital, providing popsicles to sick children, reading tattered books to little sisters patiently waiting for their sibling to finish a procedure, wiped down exam tables, filled rooms with boxes of latex gloves and paper towels and offered comforting words to anxious parents. Was I an expert in any of this? Did I have a special skill in cleaning that qualified me for that? No – I just had the desire and decided to do it. I’d like to think that I provided some small measure of comfort to those I encountered.
Becoming a parent has afforded me many, many opportunities to give of my time. Yes, sometimes the organizations ask too much (they know who they are) but I almost always have said yes. Am I saying yes for them, or for me? It’s a lot of both. I know I am doing something that is greatly needed. I also know I’m getting a lot in return for it. It’s the smile and the big “Thank You” I got when my son slid down the new slide at his school for which I helped raise money. It’s knowing my daughter found the perfect book in the library because I helped re-shelve them all that morning. It’s the grateful note of thanks I received from the teacher on the day she first used her SmartBoard in the classroom. It’s all this and more.
Volunteering also taught me leadership skills – lessons that I learned earlier in life provided me with the foundation to help me succeed in my professional life. Those were lessons I couldn’t have learned anywhere else.
My point is – it doesn’t matter why you volunteer or what you do, I just encourage you to do it. Put it on the resolution list. Elevate it to the top of your To Do list. Learn a new skill, do what you love, meet new people, share your knowledge. Just do it.
As Aesop said “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted”