Kim, one of our wonderful Rebuilding Together volunteers, recently mentioned that one of the best things about volunteering is seeing clients use their new ramp for the first time. He compared the new freedom and independence to being let out of prison, which really struck me. For years, I have referred to our ramps as bridges to freedom, but Kim’s words made me think about how awful it would feel to be trapped in a space that is supposed to be your haven. And how urgent it is we cultivate new volunteers.
As I started this post, I realized this week is National Volunteer Week, so it’s apropos that volunteers are on my mind. What does it mean to volunteer? Webster says volunteering is the principle of donating time and energy for the benefit of other people in the community as a social responsibility rather than for any financial reward. That’s the definition, but it’s so much more.
The act of helping others not only changes the life of the person you help, but it changes you as well. You begin to learn about other people, people whose paths you would not normally cross, and their stories can make profound impacts on your life. Volunteering is like karma and the law of three rolled up into one very satisfying bundle. All the time and energy you spend on helping others will multiply and come back to benefit you.
Have you been feeling down or disconnected lately? Volunteering can change that. Studies show the following benefits:
1. Volunteering Builds Community. The Corporation for National & Community Service found you strengthen your community and your social network when you volunteer by making connections with those you are help, and developing friendships with other volunteers.
2. Ends Loneliness. Close to 45 percent of people in the US admit to sometimes feeling lonely. Recent studies show loneliness and social isolation are two of the most severe epidemics in the world today. Volunteering is a simple way to reverse that trend.
3. Increases Socializing. Socially, the benefits of volunteering appear quickly and have long-term effects. Psychology Today says the benefits of consistent socializing include better brain function and a lower risk for depression and anxiety. You also improve your immune system.
4. Builds Bonds, Creates Friends. Volunteering creates stronger bonds. You build deeper relationships, better connections, and powerful attachments to people when they work together to help others.
5. Develops Emotional Stability. Depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, low self-esteem, and even obsessive-compulsive disorder have all been helped by volunteering. When people with OCD, PTSD, or anger management issues volunteer, they report decreased symptoms and improved social function.
6. Promotes Longevity. Everyone who volunteers benefits from a small boost in physical health, but long-term volunteers have longer lives, less disease, and better overall health.
7. May Lead to Career Advancement. Including related and non-related volunteer work on a résumé can often showcase your skills, as well as reveal an openness to teamwork and a talent for innovation. Employers overwhelmingly look favorably at job applicants who have volunteered.
Do you feel you just don’t have time to volunteer? Consider skipping one television show per week, or perhaps make a cup of coffee at home rather than sitting in a drive-through for an hour waiting on a specialty brew. You won’t regret it. Soon you will feel a greater sense of well-being and an enormous reduction in stress. You will develop the tools you need to be a happier, healthier person.
Now, more than ever, is a perfect time to volunteer. Your neighbors need you. We need you. Get in touch with us today to learn how you can change lives.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?”