However, while I was on my blogging hiatus, I certainly had plenty of time to think about where I am in my life, where I am going, and what sorts of things I should be learning during this transition out of college and into the next part of my life. This post is the first result of those thoughts; occasionally, I intend to post a short blog update as part of a blog series about post-college life. My intention is not to make this incredibly personal, but rather, to provide a place where, hopefully, others in my position can read my words and understand we’re all going through very, very similar struggles, and that there are things we can do to make these changes in our lives easier.
Today, my reflection is simple:
Volunteering is wonderful.
Firstly, yes, I know: we live in a very busy world and finding the time to volunteer is as difficult as finding the right place to volunteer. That said, I encourage everyone I know to make time. And plenty of people do; according to the United States Department of Labor, about 64.3 million people volunteered through or for an organization at least once between September 2010 and September 2011.
With that in mind, here are just a few reasons I say volunteering is wonderful:
· It helps with stress relief. If volunteering is causing you stress, you’re doing something wrong. Volunteering should be time set aside for you to do something you love doing. For example, I have a family member who plays in a couple local orchestras after leaving their office job for the day. Me? I’m currently a cat cuddler at a local animal shelter and training to be part of a team at the Red Cross. Considering that animals have been proven to have therapeutic value and encourage people to de-stress, I think spending time with cute kittens explains itself. As for the Red Cross? We’ll have to see what I gain from that in the near future. Speaking of…
· You gain valuable experience and build community connections. I have the feeling this will be the direction my Red Cross experience goes. Almost every volunteer experience of mine has resulted in me learning more about a fantastic cause in my community, picking up a business card, and taking my new knowledge back with me to my class work and internships. My time spent with Invisible Children inspired me to write a grant for the organization as a final project, for example. That’s an incredibly valuable piece of writing to me as someone interested in working with the nonprofit world. If I hadn’t volunteered with Invisible Children, I never would have written that grant. Plus, how many of us struggle to make friends? Volunteering is a way to connect with locals who share similar interests. People at organizations often say they feel like they’re part of a family; I certainly share the sentiment!
· It’s a great source of joy. Most importantly: volunteering just makes me happy. I would much rather spend my time with people, doing something productive, than sit in front of the TV watching “Law and Order” reruns all day. Volunteering just makes me feel happy, and therefore contributes a great deal to my mental health. What other reason do I need to volunteer?
So, how do you find the right volunteer opportunity and get these same benefits, you ask? I encourage you to explore this webpage to learn more – it has entire detailed sections about the benefits of volunteering, as well as tips on how to find the perfect volunteer opportunity.
Good luck - and stay tuned for more observations as I continue to blog. By the way, leave comments with any of your own stories. Agree or disagree with anything I say, I encourage you to speak here and let me know what you think!