As I was reviewing my Yom Kippur personal development work, I found that a theme ran across every single year: I was seeking to find a way to “volunteer well”. Not simply donate my time and effort (and money) for the sake of doing it, but for a cause that resonated with me.
In the past, I volunteered, but I never found anything that really worked for me. I loved the idea of working at a food bank, but each time I volunteered it would take at least a week before my back no longer ached and I could sleep without pain. I’ll admit it: I’m not 20 any more!!!!!!
I’d volunteered for several annual events in San Diego. Despite the fact that they needed hundreds of volunteers each year to pull the event off, they were so disorganized, most of my time was either spent standing around or being asked to make decisions for which I had no training and no authority. I don’t do disorganized.
Also, I’d tried using one of those websites that match up charities with volunteers. I submitted my interest to several organizations. NOTHING. I’m sorry, but if you’re not going to respond to inquiries, you shouldn’t have a system set up to solicit inquiries. I shouldn’t have to beg to give up my time and energy.
I was left feeling unsatisfied and underutilized.
I’m now at a point in my life this year where I can start volunteering well. Now that I’m not dancing I have TONS of time on my hands. I actually had the time to research different opportunities and to do them.
This is going to sound strange, but it was a science fiction book that spurred my desire to start volunteering right now. I was reading Lucifer’s Hammer about a comet striking the Earth, and I got all freaked out that I wasn’t prepared. Obviously, the book is so well written that I fully believed it! Well, that got me thinking about emergency preparedness and through some really long stream-of-consciousness trains of thought I realized much I miss the training elements of my former life in Human Resources.
Knowing what I wanted to do made the decision simple. When I think of helping people in emergencies, I think of the Red Cross. I went online to their volunteer page, and everything was so clearly spelled out. The first step was to attend a volunteer orientation, which I did on my 40th birthday.
This last week I attended what is essentially volunteering guidance counseling. I am in love with the opportunities. They want you to try things, and if you don’t like them, then don’t do them. They are excellent at matching interests with organizational needs. At the end of my session, the volunteer coordinator encouraged me to take as many classes as I had time and interest. They had me at hello!
Also, look at how awesome my picture is on my badge!!!! This almost makes up for my last official photograph — except I can’t use this one when carded!
After some initial training I will be on my volunteer way. I’m so excited!!!!!!
What kind of volunteer activities are other people doing? How did you find your cause?