Making the beach a more pleasant place for everybody. Volunteer work includes activities we would not even be recognised, little alone paid for: but which can give so much. Image courtesy of sixninepixels at freedigitalphotos.net
I used to think a contribution meant I needed to do a fancy degree, and earn a lot of money. However, when I thought about it, it occurred to me that besides lifting my self-esteem, it would not really change things in terms of what I was able to contribute that much. In fact without a degree, and earning not a cent – that is choosing to voluntarily work, could contribute just as much. Society may not recognise it as much, but any adult children can recognise their parents as unsung heros.
I was reflecting upon how useless I felt for awhile, knowing I was taking time off university for health reasons. Sure I might not have as much knowledge as spending more time at university could allow me to have, but life experience and even just being myself and being a good listener to the needs of others by itself can put me in touch with what other people might need. No-one else can validate this for me, but if I give from the heart, I know what a difference it can make.
I know that during my university studies, not much of it involved actually spending time with people. Even psychology! I might be able to know a theory, but unless I can relate to people in a meaningful way, what good is it.
Due to a chronic illness that has thwarted by study ambitions considerably, combined with a need to feel that I can make a meaningful difference in the world, I reflected upon what I could do. The below is additional to the volunteer work that is offered by so many wonderful organisations – such as volunteering for a worthwhile cause, like UNICEF, cancer research, and children’s hospitals. These are ways we can make a difference without it even being considered as work! For example there is truth in the saying that 'charity starts at home'.
In a fervent desire to 'feel important', I realised that I was spending less time paying attention to my little cat, Suzie at home. I realised that, in addition to being unpaid, volunteer work may even be not even recognised as such. It doesn't even need to be recognised 'important' by society to know how important it is, even if it's in terms of quality not quantity!
spending time picking up litter* at your local park or beach, even on days not especially set aside for such, can make the place a more pleasant place for people to go and visit**
Just smiling and asking someone genuinely how they are at whoever would not even be considered work. However, you can see a professional who earns a lot and who helps you, without a smile and leave with a lot less money, you may feel someone who smiles at you in the lift has helped you feel a lot better! Even if it is for a short period of time.
•Being a mother of a family. Being there for your loved ones is the quintessential unpaid work that makes such a profound difference, seven days per way, twenty four hours per day, but is often not recognised. I am not a mother (or father) but I celebrate the difference that parents make. My mother is the only person I know who I can ring anytime who will always be there to listen.
•Listening. It does not matter who it is that we listen to, or how long, but just the mere fact of being a good listener is something we do voluntarily from the heart – we are giving of ourselves, without expectation of anything in return. We often make a larger difference than we realise.
•Caring for your pet. If being a parent is an unrecognised meaningful contribution, being the best ‘mother’ or ‘father’ for your pet is even more so. I actually talk to my pet as if she is my child, and I think if not she alone realises how important it is to her how highly I regard her.
•Looking after a garden. I am a consumer of oxygen – it keeps me alive. I personally, am a terrible gardener, yet I know somebody who is a wonderful loving gardener, and not only does she create beauty, she also helps what is dying in this world – an underappreciation of how important nurturing gardens are. She also grows vegetables, which she shares, and helps keep these oxygen/life givers flourishing and beautiful.
•Talking to someone who is down or “being a shoulder to cry on”. There are wonderful charities that help support mental health like Lifeline: however, isn’t it fantastic when you know somebody who won’t judge you, who will listen with their heart, and keep your information confidential: and they aren’t even employed by a volunteer organisation?
These are just a few things that you can do day to day, that probably aren’t even considered work, let alone volunteer work. There are no social kudos for what you do, let alone monetary rewards. However by smiling, being a great parent/friend/animal owner, being kind to nature, being there for those who need you: you can volunteer in these ways every single day of your life, and to and from work if you are employed. Instead of being one of the countless people who seem mentally chained to their mobile phone, how about trying to chat so someone who seems approachable, or give someone your seat?
Of course, there are the traditional volunteer organisations mentioned above that you will be familiar with. If you ever are caught up in the thinking that 'charity starts at home' work is less worthwhile, or you are giving less, think about your mother, those people who have helped you expecting nothing, not even social reward in return, of the plants who without you wouldn’t even be them - they gave from their heart in the truest sense: as their child, even now in adulthood, what a huge and wonderful job they did.
If you enjoy paid work, you can give even more by smiling and listening with your heart at your workplace. You might not be told, but this will be appreciated as much as the other work you do. I do not know many people who will say kindness does not touch them.
You can give so much to the world by giving of your self with 'random acts of kindness'.