It’s common to think of volunteering as giving time to a cause.
The most powerful lesson of hospice is the reality that, short of organ donation, I can’t give time to anyone.
What I can do is share time.
In most of our roles, we can be swapped out. Absent someone to love, this can be a lonely reality. Family roles, particularly parenting children, is an area where it’s more difficult to replace us. Interestingly, these are roles where love dominates. Kids can survive just about anything if they are supported by the knowledge that they are loved.
My family is central to my life’s work. It’s the most direct way I can influence the world. Volunteering is most useful when it makes me a better member of my family. By “better” I mean wise.
Given that I’m married to a woman where “the tone is the message,” I want to spend time in situations that improve my soft skills. My family, and my marriage, doesn’t receive much benefit when I improve my technical knowledge.
- there’s no ability to fix anything
- I’m not empowered to do anything other than serve
- my best course of action is nearly always “quiet presence”
- I create a habit of doing what needs to be done
- I do my work without expectation of being thanked, or paid
If you have young kids, or elderly parents/grandparents, then you may find a lot of similarities with my list and your role.
Most of the friction that I observe in families is due to someone seeking to fix a situation that isn’t their domain, or doesn’t have a solution.
In terms of self-improvement:
- Volunteering rewards me if I act in a manner completely different than my typical persona. Until I started volunteering, I had never received positive feedback for being a quiet, humble helper.
- Caring for the sick has an unavoidable benefit of increasing tolerance. You can’t help but change your opinion of people when you’re serving them.
- Making a habit of good deeds gives me ammunition to take on the voice in my head that tells me that I’m falling short.
- Pushing my fear envelope is exciting and increases my ability to think clearly in situations that are emotionally charged.
- Work that challenges the heart leaves me feeling grateful and gratitude is an effective antidote for most everything that ails me.
Whatever your field, when you hear the call, I urge you to follow it.
Goodness through action.