Some Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Volunteer
These days many of us feel so busy with work, school, kids, or whatever commitments we have on our plates that we barely have time to sleep. It is in this sort of lifestyle that we feel stressed and frazzled, without the freedom to do things we love.
Like many people, I always thought it would be a nice idea to give some of my time to others through volunteer work. In the past, though, I often felt like I “didn’t have enough time” for anything beyond work, school, and sleep. In 2012, I realized that this sort of lifestyle was just leaving me stressed, frazzled, and exhausted. I realized that I needed to just make time for things that were important to me.
In the beginning, sometimes it was hard to sign up for a service project because I worried about a lot of things: time, commitment, volunteering alone, etc. But once I got into the hang of things, I became really eager to try new things and expand my comfort zone. I realized that the nervousness or worries that I have in the beginning are fleeting, and that the benefits of volunteering far outweigh those fears.
Starting out, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, and I wasn’t sure what I really could commit to.
After a little bit of research, I found a few volunteering opportunities that were a perfect fit for me. I realized that:
Volunteering Doesn’t Have to Be a Huge Commitment
There are definitely some non-profit jobs that require a full 40 hours a week, but the average person like you or I does not have that sort of time to give. It’s important to realize that there are so many options that have only a small or one-time commitment.
Here are a few volunteer options if you are short on time:
- Work at a water station during a local 5k
- Give blood at a local blood drive
- During your errands, deliver a meal to a homebound citizen through an organization like Meals on Wheels
If you are looking to better someone else’s day, earn a little bit of good karma, or just do a good deed, then here are a few tips that will help get you started. These are all things I wish that I had known before I started volunteering back in 2012.
1. Once You Become a Volunteer, You Won’t Want to Stop
I had to take a break from my volunteering for a semester because I was in a different location, and I missed it more than I realized I would! Free time taken for yourself means so much more after you have given some of your time away for someone else.
2. You Will Make Unlikely Friends
When you volunteer, you surround yourself with like-minded people who are generous with their time. What better opportunity is there to make great friends? It is easy to bond with others when you are working together to help kids, abandoned animals, or the environment.
3. You Will Make More of an Effect than You Realize
Once you get into the swing of things, volunteering can become just another thing on your schedule or to-do list, but every once in a while you will realize how much of an impact you are making. This realization sometimes comes in the form of a sincere “thank you” or a smile. Sometimes it comes when you see someone’s situation improve in some small way because of your efforts. Sometimes it’s just something you know because you feel happy and at peace with yourself. In fact, volunteering will also make your day better.
4. You Will Become a Happier Person
Eleanor Roosevelt once said: “When you cease to make a contribution, you begin to die.”
So, when you start to make a contribution, you begin to live! You gain perspective on how blessed you are. You realize how important you are. You feel the kindness and gratitude of the others around you. You learn new things. You embrace your creative side. You grow in patience. You overcome obstacles. You feel at peace.
So How Do I Get Involved?
You could begin by looking online on volunteering search engines like this one.
The best way to find the perfect volunteer project is to ask yourself: “What is important to me?”
Do you feel passionate about running, cooking, homelessness, cleaning, animals, women, children, reading, biking, running, or health? There are so many opportunities in every town and city, and so many people in need. And even if you can’t make volunteering a big part of your life today, remember that even the smallest kindness that you share with others makes a huge difference in the community!
About the Author: Norah Kearney
I am currently a junior at Webster University of St. Louis, Missouri. I’m working on my BA in English with a focus on creative writing. I plan to use my degree for writing, editing, teaching, or a bit of all three.
Read more from and about the author: Norah’s WiLab Profile