Inside Looking Out: How can you help?
Rich welcomes guest columns written by readers. He will assist in the writing and editing process. Please send your idea to the email address at the bottom. Today’s column was submitted by Sharon Oswald Main of Andreas.
It was a chilly autumn afternoon when the ladies were gathered outside the church discussing the past three days. They were the remaining members of a group that completed the immense task of producing more than 2,400 scrumptious apple dumplings. It would be quite an understatement to say a bit of work goes into organizing the orders, purchasing supplies, then baking, packaging and distributing. However, in the fall and winter days, this team shows up with sleeves rolled and smiles on their faces and makes it work for the good of the church.
In 1985, the United Nations designated Dec. 5 as International Volunteer Day to recognize and celebrate those who selflessly put the needs of others before their own. Every day, people from all walks of life generously give of their time and talents to make their community, their country or the world a better place.
Helping at a homeless shelter, assisting a community devastated by a natural disaster or serving as a member of your local fire company or ambulance association are all commendable ways of serving. Many will say they have no free time to volunteer, but a recent study states that many very busy people make time to help out more so than those who have the time, but do not offer their services.
The good news is, it doesn’t have to take much time. American naturalist and nature essayist John Burroughs said, “The smallest deed is better than the greatest intention.”
Is there someone in your neighborhood who has difficulty walking? It would take five minutes to stop by and pick up their mail, so they don’t have to struggle. Or deliver dinner to someone homebound. Could you spare one hour a week to sit with someone and just chat with them? Maybe grab your snow shovel and help an elderly or disabled person clear their walks in the winter months.
According to an old saying, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” I think when we see how much we are needed in this world by others, deep down we realize how much we truly can give of ourselves.
There are also many opportunities that are often overlooked. Sometimes we need to get creative and keep our ears and eyes open. Ask yourself, “How can my passion benefit someone?”
If you love reading, your local library could always use volunteers to help shelve books or assist in organizing events. You can even volunteer to read in nursing homes or pediatric units. If you love writing, see about contacting a local charity that could use some help with their newsletter or send out emails.
If a needle and thread is your forte, pillows or blankets can be made for use in homeless shelters or nursing homes. If knitting and crocheting is more your style, create a prayer shawl or afghan. These provide warmth and comfort to the recipient while also giving them hope during difficult times.
How about getting your pet in on the action? Do you have a dog, a cat or even a bunny that would be a good candidate to visit nursing homes and hospitals? Pets provide unconditional love and social interaction the patient needs. They would need special training and health exams to be approved but it’s a win-win situation. The patients look forward to the regular visits and you get to spend quality time with your pet.
Volunteering is fulfilling on both the giving and receiving end. I know someone who has a love for horses and volunteers regularly for a therapeutic riding program. She benefits tremendously by seeing the improvement in the lives of the many children and adults she helps.
Another girl I know is an avid runner who recently teamed up with a business to help raise funds and supplies for a local charity. Although her run was in the cold rain, I believe she took home something just as important as the gift she gave to others that day.
The relationships you establish, the sense of belonging you feel and the enjoyment you experience are just as important as what you are giving. There are times what you do seems easy, especially when your passion comes into play. And there are times you work hard and long, like the team of apple dumpling artisans.
No matter how you choose to serve, at the end of the day your mind is clearer, you rest easier, and although you may not realize it, you always get something in return.
Rich Strack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.