By Jackie White
We are all busy, busy, busy - aren’t we? Some days it’s tough to keep it together with all of the stuff we have going on. We get on that crazy track each day chasing after a list of “to dos” rarely even stopping for a moment to catch our breath. These days can be rote and lack meaning because we just have to get stuff done. Luckily, many of us have today off of work because it is a federal holiday dedicated to recognizing the great contributions of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But, before you sit back in your Lazy-Boy check this out.
For the past 25 years, there has been a movement to do more than just remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, instead this movement wants you to take today and “Make It a Day On and Not a Day Off”. This day has been designated as a national day of service to encourage all Americans to volunteer in their communities.
I know you’re busy and just need a break, but let me share a shocking statistic with you. In America only 25% of the population volunteers! As you may have guessed the majority of those who volunteer are women. The good news, though, is as more women have entered the workforce, their example of working and still making time to volunteer has impacted men and the number of men volunteering is increasing. Still, we are looking at only ¼ of the population who are making time to help others.
Let’s consider the impact of volunteerism. Consider these scenarios:
There is an apartment fire and several homes are ablaze! Thank goodness for the local volunteer firefighters who jump out of bed and rush to the scene to put out the fire and rescue those in need. These families are displaced. Thank goodness for the Red Cross and their resources to temporarily home the families and to provide them with needed supplies that were donated by thoughtful people.
A family of five has found themselves homeless. What do they do? They luckily have agencies to contact to find a shelter, a food pantry to get food and resources to help them through these tough times. Many of the people lending a helping hand are volunteers and much of the supplies and food have been provided by community members.
Local schools everywhere are lacking the resources they need to properly run the daily happenings at the school. Lunch rooms, playgrounds, the office and classrooms need staffing, but the budgets can’t cover the need. Thank you to the volunteers who have stepped up to make these things happen.
In America, we are very fortunate to have a number of organizations that exist to help others. Think of the impact these organizations have on the community. Organizations like the United Way, Salvation Army, Lutheran Services, YMCA, American Heart Association, Red Cross, food pantries, St Vincent de Paul, Goodwill and Habitat for Humanity are only a few of the thousands of nonprofits whose goals are to help those in need. Most if not all of these organizations cannot function without the help of volunteers to enable them to be able to help those in need.
It’s stunning to think of the impact of these organizations. It’s eye-opening to know that many of them are majorly staffed with volunteers. These volunteers are people like you and me. They aren’t necessarily formally trained to do the job they are doing. They have just stepped up to offer a helping hand. Let’s pause for a round of applause for these folks!
What’s in it for you?
I have shared the stats with you, but I know some of you are still thinking that kind of stuff just isn’t for me or that you are already overcommitted. If that’s so consider what’s in it for you personally.
What if I told you that by volunteering you could impact your life in ways that may blow your mind? Volunteering can make you a happier person and make you feel like you have a sense of purpose in life. Many studies including one from the Mayo Clinic have shown that you can also reap health benefits like lowering blood pressure, reduce chronic pain, reduce stress, depression and anxiety. It can even help you live longer! You can also build leadership skills and increase your chances of being hired because employers look favorably on those who volunteer. Do you have teenagers in your house? If so, you will be happy to know that volunteering can even promote positive behaviors in teens and it looks awesome on college applications!
Volunteering is almost like a wonder drug for your life! I know it is hard to believe that by helping others you literally are helping yourself! Think about it. When you connect with others by helping them in some way, shape or form, you are being a blessing. By the virtue of being you and extending a hand to those in need, you are being a positive light. Depending on what you are doing, you may even be a saving grace.
Visiting with an elderly person who may not have had a visitor in months may uplift that person to a place of happiness that they haven’t felt in a really long time. What if you volunteered to help someone learn to read? You are giving them an invaluable tool that will allow them to be successful in life. What if you made sandwiches for some people experiencing homelessness? Your gift of a meal could go to someone who is in desperate need of nourishment.
Honestly, it doesn’t really matter the kind of volunteering you do to reap the rewards for yourself. As far as the way you volunteer, it is likely that no matter how insignificant the act may seem to you, it is likely going to be very much appreciated by the person or organization you are helping.
I encourage you to find a way to get out and help others today and tomorrow! Make it a day on and not a day off and help America get its volunteering numbers up! Help because you can or help because it can reflect back in your life in so many positive ways. Remember there may come a day when you are going to be the person needing the help of a volunteer.
If you would like help on how you can re-prioritize your busy schedule so that you can find some time to volunteer, check out SoulShine’s Plan Your Priorities download.
For ways to volunteer and more information on the MLK Community Service Day, go to:https://www.nationalservice.gov/serve-your-community/mlk-day-service
Erika Fehrenbach Prell is passionate about inspiring and educating, others on their path to complete wellness-mind,body, and soul. This desire led Erika to the helping profession of nursing, and she obtained her Master's Degree as a Nurse Practitioner in 2007. Erika specialized in cardiac surgery, largely influenced by her personal experience with heart disease. While she loved working with this population, her heart's desire has always been to impact lives on a larger scale and from a proactive, not reactive, place. The universe answered when her path crossed with Jackie and SoulShine was born. Erika finally feels she is walking in her purpose and is excited for this journey to unfold.