Get Involved and Give of Yourself
How volunteer work can help you and others
by Charles Baker
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the word; indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
There is a secret to developing a healthier you. Those who know the secret understand how to tap into a power that can and will change their lives forever. The secret is . . . giving—of yourself, your time, and your talents. Those who do so will improve not only the lives of others, but also themselves—body, mind, and spirit!
A Healthier Body
Stay fit while helping out. Do you like to work with your hands, get out into the great outdoors, bang nails, or clean up the environment?
Volunteering is a great way to stay fit and active. You don’t have to look any farther than your own backyard. Organize a stream cleanup or volunteer to work with an environmental group that does one. You’ll enjoy the great outdoors and, at the same time, improve the parks and natural resources in your area for all to enjoy.
Maybe you’re a fix-it person who likes to get even more physical. Check out Habitat for Humanity, a group that has helped to build houses for over 150,000 homeless families so far. Contribute your skills with hammer and saw, or learn these skills from others who are a part of the organization. The satisfaction that comes from building something with your own hands is deep and lasting. And the families who receive the homes will forever remember what you’ve done for them.
Often, nursing homes and other care facilities need your help too. You can take those who are wheelchair-bound for walks on the grounds, or help with some of the more physical jobs around the center.For all who wish to benefit physically from volunteer work, keep in mind the words of General Norman Schwarzkopf:
“You cannot help someone get up a hill without getting closer to the top yourself.”
A Healthier Mind
Teachers, leaders, and mentors often say that the way to learn something really well is to teach it to someone else. In our fast-paced, “entertain-me-right-now” world, few people take the time to enjoy a good book anymore. Many do not have the skills to do so. Check out volunteer opportunities at your local library or elementary schools. Taking time to read to children is an investment in our future.
And it’s not just about kids. According to the latest statistics published on the ABC Canada website, 22 percent of adult Canadians have serious problems dealing with any printed materials, and an additional 24 percent of Canadians can only deal with simple reading tasks.In the U.S., according to EastSide Weekend Newsmagazine, 20 percent of American adults are functionally illiterate; another 34 percent have only marginal skills.
The need for help is there.Again, for seniors, tired eyes and worn out bodies can make reading difficult at times. And remember—the pleasure of having someone read to you is something that never goes away. It is a mind-expanding activity for both reader and listener. Who knows? You might make a new friend.
A Healthier Spirit
Volunteerism is an excellent way to give your spirits a lift. By volunteering, you expand your own personal network, forging relationships that may last a lifetime.
One of the best organizations that demonstrates this connectedness is Big Brothers / Big Sisters. They match children aged 7 to 14 from single-parent homes with a role model called a “Big Brother” or a “Big Sister”—basically, another adult role model.
A quick search on the web or a check of the phone directory should be enough to locate your local chapter. Taking time out for a child is the greatest gift you can give:
“One hundred years from now, it will not matter what kind of car I drove, what kind of house I lived in, or how much money I had in the bank, but the world may be a better place because I made a difference in a child’s life.” –Forest E. Whitcraft
A Whole New World of Opportunity You have trouble getting out when others want your help? You’re stuck at home, and feel that you can’t volunteer because your free time happens only at midnight? There is a solution—become an e-volunteer and volunteer over the Internet.
What kinds of possibilities exist? More than you might have imagined. Use your computer skills to help develop web pages for community or nonprofit organizations. Give tutorials or lessons over the web to teach others how to make best use of the Internet. Write articles supporting good causes. Research and send them pages of links that may help them.You can make a difference.
And the difference you make will come back to benefit you in countless ways—a healthier body, mind, and spirit, yes—but also a healthier outlook on the world and the positive changes that can be made, that are possible. You have this power. Join with others who have also learned the secret. Volunteer.
Charles Baker is a husband, a father, a teacher, and a writer from Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada. His poetry and prose have been published both in print journals and online for children and adults, and he is currently a weekly columnist ("GET!") for Universal Personality. Check out his website to learn more about Chuck's current projects.