I am a firm believer in the positive power of volunteering one's time. My involvement with a state wide prison ministry organization has been a tremendously gratifying experience. If you missed it, please read Pushing Back Against the Box for a glimpse into that world.
Volunteerism is one of the most important aspects of retirement for a lot of people. The chance to give back one's time and experience is a win-win: you feel good and the organization or person you help benefits, too. If you are so motivated, I urge you to donate something of yourself to others.
Like anything, being an effective volunteer requires certain qualities. Regardless of how you choose to become involved, here are 6 basic considerations:
You have the skills needed or can learn them in short order. In anything there is a learning curve. Whether you are restocking the shelves at a food bank or helping to build a house for Habitat for Humanity, there will be certain abilities of yours that can be used. If a certain way of doing something is needed, you will be taught how to accomplish your task.
You can use common sense to problem-solve.Sometimes you have to make a decision without specific guidance or policies. Common sense comes in handy if there is no one you can turn to for an answer. Trust yourself to make the right choice.
You are dependable. Even though being a volunteer means you are not being paid, there are others counting on you to do what you have promised to do, when you promised to do it. Make your word your contract. Be sure others know they can count on you.
You are able to cooperate with others. Often volunteer work means you will be interacting with others. If this is the case you should be able to operate well in a group environment. Complaining about this and that or trying to enforce your will isn't going to make your experience a positive one. It will also limit your effectiveness. Remember kindergarten...play nice.
You are able to serve someone else freely and openly. This is a tough one for many of us. We normally don't like to put ourselves in a position of serving others. Yet, that is exactly what being a volunteer all about. Your are a servant for a greater good. You must be able to be humble.
You have compassion. This probably should be listed first. Unless you are volunteering because your company tells you to, deciding to give some of your time and self to help others requires a well-developed sense of compassion. You have an urge to help others ease their pain and suffering. You are aware you are better off than another and want to help ease that person's burden just a bit.
One other type of volunteerism that often gets overlooked but is just as valuable is the type that occurs in your own family. If your daughter has young children, what are the odds she would welcome your offer to play with the kids or watch them while she took a break or went shopping? Could your Mom or Dad use your help in going to the pharmacy or grocery store? Does your son's or grandson's scout troop need another leader or someone to teach a merit badge?
It really doesn't matter if you donate time through an organization like the Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, a local elementary school, prison ministry, or just within your own family. Volunteerism enriches your life and the lives of others. It is part of being human, and it feels great.
Finally, let me share a few quotes from various people that really capture the essence of sharing yourself:
It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do little - do what you can. ~Sydney Smith
It's easy to make a buck. It's a lot tougher to make a difference. ~Tom Brokaw
The purpose of life is not to be happy - but to matter, to be productive, to be useful, to have it make some difference that you have lived at all. ~Leo Rosten
Wherever a man turns he can find someone who needs him. ~Albert Schweitzer