Our world is filled with opportunities to step up and use our gifts and talents to help one another.
And volunteering is one of the best ways to do so. But what’s often overlooked is how volunteering experiences can change us from within—how we learn and grow from them so we can give of ourselves in even bigger ways.
Over the past 15 years, I’ve volunteered with a host of organizations both locally and abroad. And in that time, I’ve learned a few lessons that I’d love to share with you:
1. See the one in front of you
It can be easy to become overwhelmed by the staggering number of people in need, but your job is to focus only on the one person who is standing right in front of you—to love, serve and encourage. And that makes it easy. As Mother Teresa put it, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”
2. Remember that we all have the same desire
We’re all broken people. And that brokenness looks different with each of us. Some of us struggle with addiction, while others can’t seem to stop counting the likes on their social media posts. But regardless, we all long to be known, to be seen, to be encouraged—to be loved.
3. Don’t overcomplicate impact
It’s actually really easy to make someone’s day. It just takes a willingness to show up, and give them your time. So, if you’ve ever questioned whether your work really matters, remember this: if you don’t show up, that’s a zero in the impact category, which, no matter how you frame it, is less than if you had shown up.
4. Be committed
The world needs committed volunteers more than ever before. We need people, not just to mindlessly sign up, but to faithfully follow through and show up consistently. That isn’t glamorous, but it is necessary.
5. Be present—really
When you show up to volunteer, really be in the moment. Forget everything that may be happening on your phone, and decide to truly be present, whether it’s for an hour or the whole day. Your presence is more a gift than even your skillset.
6. Make people the focus
It’s not about the details, the aesthetics or whether it was posted on social media. It’s about people—how you make them feel and how you help them. And it doesn’t need to be groundbreaking. Maybe you helped them write their resume or you served them a hot meal.
7. Take care of yourself
When you’re giving, you have to make sure that you’re always filling yourself back up. Burnout is real, and we must take it seriously. Be someone who can stay committed for the long haul. (Read “5 ways to make self-care a priority”)
8. Be humble
The volunteering mentality has to be one of service. When you show up to your volunteer outing, simply ask, ”How can I be of service today?” It’ll help get you in the right frame of mind.
9. Have fun!
Get to know people, make new friends, and be joyful in all that you do—especially serving others.