For years, my mom has urged me to volunteer. To find a cause and give my time. To connect with others on a deeper level. She’d tell me about how good it would make me feel, how it would maybe be the missing piece to my puzzle. She’d tell me this whenever I was stressed, sad or feeling a bit out of sorts.
I would shake her off, saying I didn’t have enough time. My job was too busy. I barely had time to see my friends during the week, let alone commit to seeing complete strangers. I think in a way I was weary of just the thought of having one more thing that I didn’t reeeeally want to do. I just didn’t want to have one more obligation on my calendar.
My mom started talking to me about volunteering while I was in college. She would mention it once in awhile in the years right after, too. I still brushed it off, busy in my mid-twenties routine and consumed in work and my social life. It was only in the past few months that I realized she was onto something. It hit me one day out of the blue that I needed something…more. I needed something to fulfill that part in me that needed to do something good.
One night on my laptop in bed, I got the fire lit under me; I scoured Hands on Nashville, a nonprofit that organizes volunteering opportunities in our local community. I had always assumed that finding volunteer opportunities and committing to specific projects would be a hassle to do. But it was nothing like that; HON made it incredibly easy to search for causes that truly resonated with me personally. I read all about these local charities’ missions and so many different ways to get involved. I felt excited at the thought of connecting with a cause that I could grow with, and one that I could find new friends and make new memories with. I was eager to find one that would help define the person I wanted to be.
To say I enjoyed my first night in the garden harvesting okra and digging for potatoes with The Nashville Food Project is an understatement. There was something about working with my hands—and no cell phone or laptop in sight—that did wonders for my mood. I worked alongside other volunteers with totally different stories and backgrounds than me…and it felt good.
As I near my 28th birthday this month, I can see how it gets easier and easier to just coast through day-to-day routines and almost even run on autopilot. I can totally see how easy it is to make excuses about not having enough time, or money, or energy to give back to our communities. I did that for years (and catch myself still feeling that sometimes). But I’m also revived knowing that there are easy ways to help others…and it’s not as overwhelming as it sounds. My mom was right all along; there are ways to get an even deeper fulfillment out of each day, and volunteering is one of the best ways to do it.
Tell me, are you involved in your community through charity work? Do you, too, struggle with finding the time to volunteer? I urge you to see if your city has a local resource for finding the right volunteer opportunities for YOU, and if not, try a search on Volunteer Match. I’d love to hear about your own personal journey in the comments below. Cheers, Kat