Volunteering often gets a bad reputation. Students and adults alike volunteer to meet quotas, build up their resumes, and most commonly just because they think that they should. However, for anyone who has truly made a connection while volunteering, they know that it is more than a character boost and a perk for future employers. It is an experience that molds you and your perspective on the world in ways that nothing else can.
Being a positive role model to others
It seems that every teen goes off to summer camp as a counselor, but I feel like not everyone comes back with a new outlook on life. The first time I volunteered to be a camp counselor at my local 4-H horse camp, was one that made me realize how impactful volunteering can be.
I made a few “best friends” as I typically do when I volunteer with younger kids, but one little girl, in particular, was glued to my side all week long. We had many opportunities to get to know each other throughout the week: singing songs, enjoying horse-related activities, crafts, and even trying to get the kids to shower- (emphasis on “try”).
Towards the end of the week, the little girl who had become quite attached to me suddenly looked up at me with her bright eyes and said, “I want to be just like you when I’m older Miss Morgan.” Her words, although simple and to the point, have remained some of the most memorable throughout all of my volunteer experiences.
People can tell you how much that you are a role model to younger kids, but until you have a moment where a future leader has her eyes locked with yours, you cannot truly know what it’s like to want to work harder and be the best version of yourself.
Opening your eyes to others’ experiences
Every volunteer's experience is unique and every person that you work with is equally special. For an hour, a day, a week, or longer you get to be a part of someone else's experience and their life journey. The stories that have broken and uplifted people alike have allowed me a glimpse into a world that I couldn’t have imagined.
People young and old from every type of background provide vibrancy and individuality to the world around us and volunteering gives you the opportunity to see this through a personal lens. Volunteering is such a special way to experience the people around you and to get to know what has shaped their lives.
Whether you are sitting down with a child who has experienced bullying or you are listening to the life of a family who has experienced homelessness- your sense of compassion will expand exponentially by listening, caring, and wanting to work with individuals to help them achieve their goals. Nothing is better for the soul than opening yourself up to letting others’ feelings in and wanting to learn how to help others.
Made me more adventurous
Volunteering isn’t always easy. I have planned out my days to go somewhere that I was very hopeful and excited about only for it to turn into a day ridden with anxiety about how I would even arrive at my destination. Those days have taught me to step out of my comfort zone because although I may have to endure stress and a little extra trouble on the metro, it pales in comparison to whatever the people that I am working with have been through. Plus, I am always up for a little adventure.
There is more good in the world than we hear about- but we need so much more
The people I have met through volunteering have given my life depth and fullness. Each and every person who takes time to volunteer that I can now call a friend has a heart so big and so open to their communities. These are the people that I look up to each day.
The selfless volunteers that uplift one another and their communities up are the people that give me hope that there is more good than bad in the world. However, there are never enough volunteers to get the important work done that needs to be completed.
I ask you to consider a free weekend and spend it with people that you love and volunteer because it may change your outlook on life, too.