Why volunteer?

Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth. — Shirley Chisholm

volunteeringThe Arlington County fair was this past weekend. Two organizations that I support were exhibiting, so I volunteered to help. ACE (Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment) promotes “green” living through education. Their mission encourages people to choose in the direction of a sustainable future. The other organization was BikeArlington, which strives to create a more bikeable community and inspire people to select two-wheeled travel. If the roads are safer for walking and cycling, more people will opt out of cars. These are things I believe in—sustainability and biking—so I work advance their missions when I can.

There are good reasons to volunteer. Some motives might include:

  • To make a contribution
  • To help others
  • To support a cause I believe in
  • To apply my skills, knowledge or experience or learn new skills
  • To build relationships and work as part of a team
  • Someone I know has been affected by the cause represented by the organization
  • To fulfill a service obligation or religious commitment

Helping others helps you too. As written last week in IndexCardCure™, life is richer when you share experiences. Working with people who feel strongly about particular causes helps build robust relationships and strengthens social connective tissue. Volunteering also provides opportunities to fulfill your sense of purpose. Choosing to work without pay highlights a distinctive level of commitment while addressing thorny social problems. If you are concerned about the well-being of animals, for example, you may opt to foster rescue animals or volunteer at a shelter. Or perhaps you feel called to do trail maintenance in national parks. Your interest and commitment are paid forward so you and others reap the benefits.

Volunteering is also good for community. Non-profits commit to doing good things for society by augmenting governmental programs. They rely on volunteers to meet their goals and fulfill their mission. By volunteering for these organizations, you work for social justice; helping society meet the needs of people, whether addressing veterans’ issues, literacy, global poverty, or obesity. Whatever your interest, there is an organization that has committed to solving that particular problem. You can help make positive changes that directly affect the lives of those needing help.

While volunteering is good, keep in mind other obligations. When I got a call yesterday from the Arlington Ladies’ coordinator, I committed to attending a  funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, then realized I just relinquished my writing time for IndexCardCure™; a prior commitment I’ve made to Jane Collen, my co-blogger. Volunteering is good, but set limits. Sometimes, “no” is the only way to honor your commitments, including your personal goals.

How do you walk your talk? Do your actions connect to your words? When you believe in something strongly, do you back up your passion with time and money? Often people have good intentions but limited time. Integrity is where actions and values intersect. I’m glad to have helped with ACE, BikeArlington and Arlington Ladies, but the next time, I will consider other priorities before I say, “Yes.”

“Wisdom is knowing the right path to take. Integrity is taking it.” ― M.H. McKee

© Joan S Grey, 11 Aug 2015

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