I walk several times a week with a walking group from my neighborhood. Unless I bring my kids along, I’m the youngest member of the group. It’s fun to be the youngest person in the group. It makes me feel a lot younger than I really am.
One thing I admire about the ladies I walk with is that they all volunteer some of their time in the community. Some of them volunteer in many different organizations. The are all enthusiastic about the work they do to help others.
I have heard it said that we become more like the people we spend our time with. So perhaps it’s not surprising that I volunteer in the community as well now that my children are all in school during the day. The ladies in my walking group are a wonderful source of advice and encouragement for my volunteer work.
This is good, because I need the help. Volunteering isn’t easy for me. To begin with, volunteering generally involves people. I generally find people a little stressful.
This is not because I don’t like people. Actually, I really like people. I just worry a lot about saying or doing the wrong thing and hurting people’s feelings or misleading them somehow or something. I worry that I’m talking too much or that someone is feeling left out. I feel anxious about people for lots of reasons.
Also, I don’t really have a lot of time. Part of this is due to me needing time to recover from dealing with people. But, I also have responsibilities to my self and church and family and things I want to learn and do. Fortunately, when I feel stretched too thin, I take a step or two back and do a little less. You can do that when you volunteer.
I find as I volunteer that there is always more to learn and do. Once I’ve figured something out, it often changes and I have to learn something new. It also seems like I’m constantly asked to do more things than I planned on doing.
With all of this, why volunteer? On Tuesday, someone thanked me for the work I’d done in organizing a successful writing event. “I know this is a lot of work,” he said.
“It’s worth it,” I said.
He looked skeptical. “Well, you’re young and enthusiastic still,” he finally said.
Youthful idealism isn’t the only reason I find value in my service. For one thing, I’m not really all that young, no matter what the ladies in my walking group say. (When I say this, I’m chided for making them feel old. But it’s true.)
I have learned a lot through volunteering. I have learned to send professional-sounding emails. I’ve learned to use computer programs that I’d never even heard of before. I’ve learned to speak in front of a group and feel moderately comfortable.
I’ve learned to connect with people. I’ve found confidence. Some confidence.
The funny thing about service is that it accelerates growth. When you’re doing something for someone else, or lots of someone elses, you can somehow stretch a little farther and try a little harder than you would have otherwise.
I truly believe that if there is something you want to learn, find a way to serve someone else as you learn it. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you learn.
In high school, I spent a lot of time helping my classmates understand the things we learned in class. I did the same in college. It really helped me understand and remember what we learned. I did well in school.
It also feels nice to help other people. It feels great to see people happy and smiling and to know that it’s partly due to something I did. It’s good to spend some time outside of the shadow of my usual worries and concerns. Service helps my problems seem smaller and lighter. It gives me perspective and hope.
And so for these and other reasons, like the ladies in my walking group, I volunteer. It isn’t easy, but I am happy about the service that I do. And I do feel like all the work is worth it. That’s why I do it.
Do you volunteer? What do you do? If you don’t have time now, where would you like to volunteer someday?