One often reads a quote from a volunteer who has been recognized for their many hours of service or some special effort made, that they get far more from the act of volunteering than they give. These little truisms while sometimes trite become part of our cultural understanding precisely because they are true.
While living a near hermit-like existence, I prefer Thoreau-like however; I discovered the need for more human contact than the grocery checkout allows. I found my perfect volunteer fit at my small town library. What better place to use my time and talents than surrounded by books and the people who love them!
The first benefit is the warm greeting received upon each arrival. One does not generally expect such enthusiasm arriving at work, and unless you own a dog, arriving home. A volunteer is a valued commodity, not just free labor, but a giver of the labor of love; and is treated as such. When a day begins dreary and bleak, there is nothing better to revive the spirit than to step into a place where one’s value is appreciated and thankfulness for time given is generously bestowed.
Once one has chosen a good fit, the other people met may be a good fit as well. Finding others that share common interests and activities is more likely if the place or task that time and talent are applied is reflective of one’s passion. To be understood is a very human craving and spending time with others sharing a common passion is an opportunity to add another layer of understanding of oneself and to be known in a particular manner.
The activities of the volunteer effort will of course vary as widely as those who offer themselves to the task. With each act comes an opportunity to find some part of oneself and bring it forth to good use. Some long-forgotten talent, some deep reserve of patience, some bit of inspiration; all are likely to rise up at the time most needed. Taking action out of love and choice opens the wellspring of creativity and energy.
In the search for happiness, looking beyond oneself is to find a different sort of joy that is easily incorporated with one’s inner sense of peace. Choosing an activity for the sheer joy of it, being rewarded in a myriad of ways, and adding another layer of value to oneself; the volunteer does in fact gain far more than they give.