Volunteering–How Do You See It?

My head is down this week, with a lot of great activity. My fuzzy list of things on my mind includes:

  • A wedding this weekend!  I am so excited.  My “little” sister is getting married to a man who seems to make her heart sing.  In fact, he actually sang his proposal to her. Is that wonderful or what?  And this sister is such a treasure, I’m hoping for many happy years for both she and her new husband.
  • As always, I have work for clients to finish up before I can take time off for the weekend.  As a freelance writer and marketing consultant, my schedule is unsteady, even at the best of times.  Lately, a couple of big projects have had me neglect a couple of smaller ones, and it’s time to get back on track there.
  • Volunteer projects.  Oh my goodness!  Volunteering? Say it isn’t so.

I have put in a lot of volunteer hours in the course of my lifetime.  Not half as many as some, and quite a bit more than others.  I’m not sure what that’s all about.  Why do we need so many people to give away time and talents that others get paid well for?  Hmm. Perhaps it’s the causes we work for, or the belief in “giving back” we seem to share as a community value.

picture of Volunteering HandsDid you know that statistics show over a quarter of our American population donated approximately 7.9 billion hours of service in 2012, worth a staggering $175 billion?  We work at fundraising, food collection and distribution, physical labor and transportation, and tutoring or teaching.  Even in this spread-out community of Facebook friendships and tweets around the world about life being a pain-in-the-you-know-what, people make time to help each other out. Is that cool or what?

And I’m lucky.  I’ve been volunteering lately for the two writing groups I’m part of–Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America.  Both organizations would probably wither and die but for the work many people put in, often without pay or worthwhile recognition.

But there are hidden benefits to volunteering.  According to HelpGuide.org, volunteering can bring you these terrific benefits:

  • Connection with others — I have to say, this is really big for me.  I remember when I used to write in a vacuum, wishing I could get feedback and grow as a writer. Now I can, thanks to people who voluntarily set up critique groups, and both my organizations’ pubic meetings (not possible without tons of volunteer hours by others)
  • Volunteering is good for your mind and body–combating things like depression and increasing people’s self-esteem.  I’ve witnessed this over time and have to agree.  The site also claimed that volunteering keeps people living longer. As humans we need our social connections to survive–literally.
  • Volunteering can advance your career–I’m more skeptical of this claim. I’ve put in a lot of hours and have never seen it turn into anything much. In one place, I voluntarily organized a big event, and three months later got offered a job–at  minimum wage. Hmm. Meanwhile, some of my non-volunteering friends were making the six-figure incomes I coveted. Perhaps I just had a bad experience. Maybe you can give me a better case study.
  • Volunteering brings fun and fulfillment to your life. Well, again, that’s a great claim.  Not sure about it when at midnight, I’ve been known to be up doing work on something I just want to throw out the window.  Yet, then I think about the smiles, hugs, and joy I shared with a small group of kids for six years and feel that happiness each time I remember them.  Yes, I felt fulfilled with that.

Yes, volunteering is good. I’m going to go back to a booklet I’m working on, and layout for a sign one of my groups needs.  I just wish that only people who volunteered could buy lottery tickets. Volunteers deserve big wins in life.



5 thoughts on “Volunteering–How Do You See It?

  1. Nice post! Right now, my extended family is pitching in to move my mother. She couldn’t manage it on her own. I’m not sure if helping family counts for volunteering, but I’d like to think so. It is a good feeling to do things for the older folks in our family, and they very much appreciate even the little things. If you don’t have elderly parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles, I suggest “adopting” one, and helping with yard work, transportation for errands, or house cleaning and repairs.

    • What a terrific idea, Catherine! Thanks for posting it. And the word “volunteer” means to do work without pay, so yes, helping elderly relatives counts. Good for you, and thanks for making a difference in our world.

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