Now more than ever, people are yearning for purpose and a place where they fit in and feel loved and needed. Whether you find yourself employed, unemployed, retired, on school break, caring for family, or somewhere in between, it is okay, and normal to feel at times as though you’re on the other side of the fence looking over at greener pastures. Thoughts that start with, “If I could just…” or end with “…and then I’ll be happy,” are a good sign that you may enjoy the rewards of volunteering.
Beyond fulfilling a desire to give back to your community, volunteering can be a great way to explore a new realm of the world, model citizenship for younger family members, and even help you contend with feelings of loneliness. The best part is you can find ways to give back and engage that are enjoyable to you and may even come with some added perks like reduced stress, new friendships, hobbies, or even career paths.
If you’re feeling like volunteering might be a good match, but you don’t know where to start, make a list of some things that you’d like to do, but haven’t had time or ability, or resources to do. You can also reach out to friends or family and ask them about your strengths and what they could see you doing. Often your family and friends can see potential that you might not even know you have. Similarly, if you have a friend or family member who may have some undiscovered skills or aptitudes that they may not be aware of, take a moment to share them. Not only could it lead them to an interesting new path in life, but they will likely be happy to hear some praises on their skills!
In terms of starting to volunteer, many organizations from youth groups, to senior care centers, to rescue services, to animal shelters, to hiking trail advocates, and beyond already have networks you can loop into through their websites. If you find a topic area you’re passionate about and can’t find any information on volunteering, reach out through email or over the phone. In most cases organizations are overjoyed for help and support and their biggest issue is not having the resources to recruit or connect with interested folks.
Above all, even a short stint volunteering can give you amazing insight into how organizations function, and it may even take your life in a new direction through the people you meet, and the new worlds you are welcomed into. Know with confidence, that even small acts like reading, raking, cooking and even simply being there to listen to others compound to something much greater, because as the Tanzanian Proverb goes, Little by little, a little becomes a lot.