Volunteering

Are you doing it to Ďlook goodí
or because you know youíre making a difference?

For most of my life, I have volunteered my services in one way or another. I can give you a list at least a page long of all the things I have done to help others in need but I am not here writing this article to brag about all these activities and this article isnít about me; it is about you. I feel it might be better to understand what is inside most of us as human beings.

There are motivations and satisfactions. Economic pressures and changes in lifestyle and family composition have meant there are fewer volunteers these days when they are needed most. Even successful recruitment efforts are unable to satisfy the increased need for volunteers. Organizations depending on volunteers must make sure that those people already working with them want to stay. They must also find ways of making assignments interesting enough to attract and involve others. The best people for recruitment are volunteers who share their positive experiences with others. There is a long list of motivating factors for volunteers, ranging from a wish to do something useful to the acquisition of skills and the achievement of personal goals. I canít speak for anyone but myself when I say that there are a few reasons I feel good in my heart about volunteering. For one, there is a sense of achievement. For another, I get a feeling of giving back to my community and also there is this personal feeling inside of friendship and of belonging to my community and my world. I enjoy knowing that I have helped either a fellow human being or one of Godís creatures and that gives me great satisfaction.

The first time that I can remember that I helped someone was my next-door neighbor who had fallen walking from his garage to his house while pushing his push lawnmower. (For you kids today that is a lawnmower WITHOUT a motor and I donít mean a cow either.) I think he had tripped on something but I remember even to this day how he had hit his face on the wooden handle and he was bleeding really badly. I ran over to him and helped him into his house so his wife could attend to him. I was not even a teenager yet. When I walked out of their house, they were both thanking me. I walked over to the lawnmower, finished pushing it to the front of the house, and decided to cut his grass. Since there wasnít any noise of a motor they didnít know what I was doing so I went around back and cut the back section also. In Chicago these parcels of land take an entire 20 minutes at best, not like out here in Wisconsin. When I finished I put the lawnmower back in the same place I had found it and walked back to my house with a feeling of pride. This was my first random act of kindness. I did something without having been told to do it and I helped an elderly (to me, probably early 40ís) couple out. This act of kindness paid off years later.

At the time I didnít recognize this as a motivation to get involved but it was an opportunity for me to stay out of trouble (for a change). That opportunity gave me my first satisfying feeling of doing something for someone without asking for anything in return. What was funny was seeing the puzzled look on his face when he came out of his house and saw the grass cut. Then he looked over to me and said, ďThank you! What you did was really good.Ē Those words of positive reinforcement sent goosebumps all over me. See, even back then I wasnít the best kid on the block, if you know what I mean, but when I heard those words I felt like the best kid in Chicago.

Itís funny how, even as a kid, you know when you are not being recognized. When you are volunteering at an organization or just helping the elderly next-door neighbor, they suddenly call you by your first name and you feel special. Go help out at a local food pantry like ECHO on the last Wednesday of the month at the Rock County Fair Grounds and after you are finished for the day tell me how you feel seeing all these needy people getting a few dayís supply of food. It feels good seeing them smile at you and telling you, ďThank you for volunteering.Ē You just feel an obligation to do something for someone who isnít as fortunate as you are. When you go home, you are very thankful for what you have, no matter how little it may be, trust me. If you have nerves of steel, volunteer at a facility that caters to the elderly or a hospice center. If that is too much for you then try volunteering for any number of animal rescue organizations or the animal shelter. When you help someone or something, you can feel their gratitude. You know that you did something good and worthwhile. Like I said before I have volunteered much of my life in one way or another. I moved out here to Janesville in May of 2011 and have had this feeling that I was missing something in my life until I had to do my volunteer time for Glenn Hoffarthís Sociology class and I did my time with ECHO. Then yesterday I had a magazine sent to the house in the mail called: Life in Rock County Ė Great People Great Stories. After reading this magazine, I found where I could once again find my little place where I can put some time helping in my community.

I hope you can find a place in your heart to help someone or one of Godís creatures because it will make your heart feel all kinds of warm fuzzy feelings. If we want a better world to live in, it starts with you and me.