The Rewards of Volunteering

The Rewards of Volunteering 

Volunteering not only helps other people in need, but also helps you make friends, feel more a part of your community, overcome your shyness or loneliness, learn new skills, advance your career, provide you with a sense of purpose, and even feel happier and healthier.  There are many different types of volunteer opportunities, and if you find the right opportunity for you, it could change your life as well as the life of many others.   

Why volunteer?

Many of us have super busy lives, and it can be hard to find the time to volunteer.  Or maybe your life isn’t all that busy, but you are shy, socially awkward, or just flat out intimidated to volunteer.  Read on to discover some of the benefits of volunteering that will make you feel happier and healthier, and just generally live a more fulfilled life. 

Volunteering helps you make more friends

I used to move a lot when I was in my twenties, and I found that volunteering in a brand new city or town always introduced me to some really cool people and helped me quickly make friends, or at least acquaintances.  And the people you meet volunteering tend to be some pretty good folk.  Lots of people are shy in big groups, and I always felt kind of dumb walking into the first few volunteer events not knowing a soul.  I was nervous, but tried to play it cool and just throw myself into the scene.  It’s always a balance of trying to be somewhat assertive and outgoing and introduce yourself to someone. Or just be patient, kick back and do your own thing - and wait for someone to notice that you’re alone and new, and hopefully introduce themselves to you.  People who aren’t shy don’t understand this, but the shy ones among us totally understand!  Anyway, once you get past that awkward stage of being new and start getting to know some pretty cool people, then the fun begins! 

Volunteering is healthy for your mind and body

Getting out of your house or apartment, meeting new people, doing new and different things, confronting a new challenge, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, and feeling good about helping others are all very healthy for your mind.  And getting out and doing something physical, whether it’s trail building, loading and unloading people into kayaks,  setting up or tearing down the chairs and table for a big event, or picking up trash for a town clean-up day -- whatever it may be, that’s healthy for your body!  And your mind, to boot.     

Volunteering helps you feel more a part of your community

Many of us work in our own community, interact with lots and lots of people every day, and feel a total sense of community.  But many others, myself included, work in today’s new-age work environment leveraged by the Internet and technology, and mostly interact with people outside of our community. In fact, I talk to people all day long in Charlotte, Minneapolis, Des Moines, Chicago, Phoenix, Omaha, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dallas and even London, Hong Kong and Toronto. But I never talk to anyone in Truckee, California, where I live.  Well, nothing that pertains to my career anyway.  And I don’t know about you, but I love my job and the people I meet outside our community, but I long to interact with and meet more people in my own community.  This is where volunteerism is super awesome!  It provides an opportunity for us to meet our neighbors and townies, and all those people that you are not meeting when you’re doing your own thing to support yourself and your family.

Volunteering gives you a sense of purpose in life

Some jobs and careers are incredibly fulfilling and provide us with a sense of purpose in life. Others are, ummmm… not quite so fulfilling.  Many of us also have friends and family who definitely give us a sense of purpose in life.  But lots of people don’t have either of these, or perhaps only have one of them.  And so we may need an outlet other than our job, friends or family to help give us a sense of purpose in life.  Volunteering can fill that void in your life, and it’s so easy to volunteer!  You don’t usually have to apply or interview to volunteer, and people aren’t judging you on your age or level of experience.  There are many organizations who will welcome you and your beautiful spirit with open arms if you just open up your heart, body and soul and give back to them.  This is really what life is about.  It’s not about working for other people to get a paycheck to pay your rent or a night on the town. It’s about feeling proud to be a member of your community, feeling truly happy, and wanting to get out and do things, and help people.  This is what it means to have a purpose in life.  Now, I’m not saying this is an easy feat to accomplish.  It’s not. But it’s something that all of us can strive for…