What makes you special? Maybe you can run fast, complete complex math problems, or beat the final level in the newest video game. Maybe it’s something more internal; you’re smarter, nicer, or tougher than everyone else you know. Regardless of what makes you stand out, every individual is unique in their own way. However, we are all connected by the same innate characteristics and needs that make us human. While some of these needs are universal (hunger, thirst, shelter, etc.), other necessities such as the need to volunteer seem to only affect some of the population. So what is it that causes these inconsistencies?
While there is not a specific gene that causes you to be born ready to give back to your community, research has shown that there are particular traits that can cause an individual to be more likely to become a volunteer. According to a recent study conducted at the University of Michigan, individuals born with the gene that leads to anxiety disorders are actually more likely to perform such pro-social behaviors as volunteering. Those who are capable of curbing their anxiety and developing strong social skills are therefore genetically predisposed to volunteer.
However, perhaps the biggest indicator of an individual’s likelihood of volunteering is the environment in which they grew up in. Children who are introduced to the benefits of volunteering at a young age are more likely to internalize those behaviors and associate the act with positive emotions. If the child begins to value volunteering, it becomes more likely that they will find time in their adult life to give back as well. Through being exposed as a child, the individual is taught that volunteering is an important activity necessary to live a full life.
So according to science and observation, humans decide to volunteer because of their nature AND because of how their families chose to nurture them.
I can’t tell you for sure which hypothesis is accurate. As a volunteer myself, I cannot point out any one trait that made me want to volunteer at Interfaith Ministries of Denton. However, while my family never really exposed me to these types of activities either, I was raised with the mindset that I am overwhelming lucky to have what I do. I was shielded from the harshness of the real world, but was constantly reminded that most people do not have that luxury.
Instead most have to fight to get everything they need while I was being handed things I wanted. So when the time came to begin volunteering, I readily stepped forward. To me it is more than an activity necessary for self-fulfillment, it’s practically a requirement. My parents did so much to ensure that I wouldn’t live a hard live, and it is now my responsibility to try to help others do the same. Regardless of our differences that make each of us so special and unique, everyone is deserving of living their best life and I want nothing more than to help them do that.
Interfaith Ministries of Denton is filled with volunteers and employees who each have their own stories and reasons for wanting to help their community. Each individual here is focused on doing everything they can to help the citizens of Denton, Texas become self-sufficient. We’re here and eager to help whenever you need us.