We are starting a series called Dave's Dialogue, featuring one of our newest volunteers, Dave Lawrence. Dave has been helping us inventory and organize the child and adult diapers in our Diaper Depot that provides a month's supply of diapers, once a year, to those in need.
Why do we volunteer to help others? Is it something we do because it makes us feel good about ourselves? Do we do it because we think it is expected of us? Or, do we do it because we really want to help others?
The dictionary defines volunteering as “to offer (oneself or one's services) for some undertaking or purpose.” Usually this means without receiving anything in return.
As kids we are taught by our parents that we should help others whenever we can. We did this in small ways like helping around the house without being asked, helping our parents carry things (even though they didn’t really need help), picking up our rooms without being asked to, or maybe helping to make cookies to give away to others.
We saw that these things made others happy, and in return that made us happy.
When we got into school, we were asked who wanted to volunteer to do things like erase the chalk board (shows my age), passing out or collecting papers, helping put away supplies, or other similar tasks. When the teacher asked for volunteers, we wanted to be the first to raise our hand to help out. We got nothing in return for doing these task (save a little time outside clapping the erasers), but it made us feel good to volunteer.
For myself, that commitment to helping others was solidified in the Boy Scouts. Part of our oath was “To help other people at all times,” and our slogan was “Do a good turn daily” (picture a scout helping an elderly lady across the street). One of the requirements to reach each new rank was to do some type of community/service project and to explain its importance. In order to become an Eagle Scout (the highest obtainable rank in Boy Scouts), a scout had to plan, develop, and give leadership to others in a service project for any religious institution, school, or community. Though I never did make Eagle Scout, I think my time in scouts really taught me the importance of helping others.
After high school, I joined the military and one of the things we were evaluated on during our annual appraisals was what kind of volunteer opportunities we led or participated in. Traveling to other countries both in the military and in my job after the military, I had a chance not only to see others in need of help but was also given the opportunity to participate in activities like working with orphans in Korea and helping clean up after disasters. I also volunteered to help clean up after hurricanes while stationed back in the states.
As I get older and my priorities in life change, I see even more the importance of volunteering to help others.
There are so many ways we can help others, and each of us have talents/gifts that either came naturally to us or we learned from experiences that can be used to help others.
The most important thing we can give is our time. It doesn’t have to take days or even hours to help someone; volunteering to just spend a little time with someone alone, passing out meals to the homeless, babysitting for a mother in need, or cleaning a supply room can make a huge difference for a person or a group in need.
Volunteering is something we are taught as young children, something we are given the opportunity to do throughout our lives, and something we can teach to our children to pass on.
Yes, helping others does make me feel good about myself, but what is more important is the feelings of the people I have the opportunity to help. As the bible says in 1 Peter 4:10. Each one of us should use whatever gift(s) he has received to serve others.