Giving away my time has given me everything I have. That’s not an exaggeration. It started when I was 11, and my mother encouraged me to volunteer at the preschool I had attended. That led to babysitting jobs. Then in high school, before I was old enough to work, I volunteered at an animal hospital. It was just cleaning up cages, but it gave me enough experience to get my first job at a pet store, who said they wouldn’t have hired me without that involvement. When I was in college, I volunteered for events at my local library, and then for the mobile crisis response team in my city. Both of which were assets when I was applying to graduate school, and gave me experiences to reference when applying for jobs in my field after graduation. I’m not trying to preach that volunteering is your asset in the job market (even though it is..)
What I’m getting at is that without those opportunities, I have no idea where I would be. Yes, I gave up some Friday nights and some weekend mornings. Yes, that was time I could be earning money, relaxing, entertaining myself or in one case, having my birthday party. But I also think about what they gave me:
Those organizations invested their trust in me. They trusted me to try hard and do the right thing, and do things their way.
They invested their time in training me, and in encouraging me out of my comfort zone and into new experiences.
Each time I volunteered, I met friends and mentors who were quick with encouragement, references, and sometimes job offers.
The people I met trusted me to entertain them, clean up after them, engage them in learning or help them through a tough situation. And having people trust you gives you confidence that you are capable, strong, and have something to offer, even when you might be otherwise down and out.
I use what I learned from these people every day. It’s a privilege to have been in these people’s lives, even if for a short time. I learned to appreciate what I have, and to believe I can do more.
Sure, you can go your whole life never giving it a try and have a happy, full, productive life. But for me, I have no idea who I would be or where I would be without the privileges volunteering provided. And I don’t want to know, either.
There are one million ways you can give your time to your community, and one billion ways the experience will repay you, enrich you, and inspire you.
Joyce Abbott Holds a BA in Anthropology and an MA in Library Science. She has worked in for-profits, non-profits, and local government everywhere from customer service, to librarianship, to corporate records management. She believes the point of life is to never stop growing and pushing yourself into something new. You can connect with Joyce on Linkedin.com!