According to doctoroz.com, “…people who do volunteer work for 2 or more hours per week have lower rates of depression and heart disease, live happier more fulfilled lives, have greater self-esteem and greater function ability, especially for older adults.” I don’t volunteer as much as I used to, in fact, the last few years, it’s just been once or twice a year. Every year, except for one – last year, when I had a terrible cold – my bestie and I travel to our friend Paula’s place to wrap gifts for The Boys and Girls Club. It’s a pretty basic thing to do, takes around 4-ish hours or so – sometimes longer depending on how many people volunteer, and you end up helping, in a very small way, make people’s lives a little easier. This year, there were fewer corporate sponsors. It’s so sad – I mean, I understand that there are needy people all over the world, and many worthy charities, but I also think it’s important to assist and aid people in your own communities. This particular charity provides needy kids of all ages, from infant to teen, with the essentials that they need to get through a Canadian Winter. The kids get a winter coat and boots, an outfit, shoes if they need them, pyjamas, underwear, socks, mittens, a hat and a special request item like a toy. One year, when I was reading what the “dream item” was, it ended up being pencils and a backpack. How sad is it that a child’s deepest wish is to have the basics that they need for school?
According to the article on Dr. Oz’s site http://www.doctoroz.com/blog/donna-cardillo-rn-ma/volunteering-good-your-health-and-your-career, “When you focus on helping others, you are less likely to focus on your own troubles. And if your volunteer work happens to be with people who are ill, disabled or underprivileged, it can put challenges in your own life in perspective.” It’s so true. In 2003, a family member became very ill, and I was worried constantly. At this point in time, I was volunteering weekly with an after-school program at work. The kids would come each week for 60-90 minutes to be tutored. We were each paired up with a child. I can tell you, that it was like going to the gym – I’d dread it all day, then, after the session, I’d be invigorated. It also made me realize, that although I was having a difficult time, that spending some of my energy focusing on someone else, made me feel better, and it showed me that no matter how difficult life gets, that you can make a difference. The kids were special. Some needed more help than others, but most were just looking for undivided attention from an adult. I did this every week for three years and to this day, it’s one of my proudest accomplishments.
I hope to volunteer more in 2015. I may not be able to commit to weekly volunteering, but one of my resolutions is to commit to at least 12 times in the year. Today, I am grateful to Paula for having a group of people invade her house every year to wrap gifts, for arranging everything and for being an overall inspiration of how someone can make people’s lives better. I’m also grateful to get to partner with my bestie – the photo was taken today as we plower (or plodded) through the gift wrapping. The holidays, regardless of what your background is, can be difficult. Volunteering is a way to connect with others and get out of the “poor me” rut that we all can get into.