Give your soul some TLC, give your life some genuine meaning, and give your time some purpose: volunteer. Personally, volunteering is my saving grace, it is food for my soul and my time best spent. Twenty-somethings are so invested in self-discovery and growth during this time that they often forget to invest in those who need investing in. Me and you darling, we can change this and in honor of World Kindness Day, I am going to help you get started.
I have always enjoyed the warm feeling that helping others gives me; from spending cold nights as a teenager at a local ranch that provides mentally handicapped children therapy horseback rides, to spending time at the local food bank so I would be able to help a hungry family. I have always felt like volunteering was a part of my design, something God wanted to use me for.
A recent Harvard study found that 69% of adults ages 18-29 “believed community service was an honorable thing to do,” yet, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in the summary for 2012, that volunteer rates were lowest among 20-24 year-olds. So I began to ask myself, “Where is the disconnect?” Why are young adults essentially talking the talk, but not walking the walk? What is stopping our generation from really getting involved and giving back to our communities and those in need?
It wasn’t until I made giving back one of my priorities in life that I figured out what held me back from doing it sooner, what holds many young people back from getting involved, the first step. The small act of moving from talking about something, to actually doing it, that is the hardest part. Once I got started, I couldn’t stop and I hope the same for every young adult looking for something to be a part of bigger than yourself.
Below are some tips I have learned along the way that I think could help our generation make the move, to lead by example and get involved.
Find what moves you
The very first thing you need to do is decide what moves you. What is something in this world that the thought of makes your chest ache with pain for the people who are going through it? Homelessness, breast cancer, abused women, heart disease, abused children? You have to find something that you believe in because you are going to invest your time and effort into it. The thought of those in need must throw fuel on the fire and get you fighting for them, week after week, month after month.
Personally, Alzheimer’s and homelessness move me. The thought of a disease that takes away your memories and abilities to recognize your loved ones keeps me doing all that I can to help. The idea that because of someone’s inability to receive treatment for a mental disorder, they are spending cold winters homeless under a tree, turning to drugs to numb the symptoms or being unable to hold a job, breaks my heart. These constant pulls at my heartstrings is why I choose to make time to work hard for these causes.
You have to be brave to be a volunteer. You have to willingly step out of your comfort zone and be put into a world that is tragic. Even something like joining an organization is scary for some, walking into a room where you don’t know anyone and talking about serious issues is terrifying. The first time I fed the homeless I was so scared. I was afraid people would be rude to me, say inappropriate things, or just see the sadness in my eyes for them and be offended. I spent three hours that first time staring at the scrambled eggs I was serving, terrified to look directly at anyone—only to find that everyone was so kind and gracious to me. All they wanted was to be looked in the eye and treated with the respect other people get.
Be brave enough to be the first. When you bring up volunteering to your friends and everyone nods and thinks it would be awesome, follow it up with a date and time. Do the work; someone has to get the ball rolling and it has to be you. You have to be the one to close the gap, to turn talking about something into actually doing it.
It is hard to see people suffer. It is one of the hardest things I think you can do but ignoring it is not an option. The world needs us and we have to be brave and face it head on.
Set an example
Finding a passion and being brave when trying to get involved in volunteering are sometimes hard. This last part, in my opinion, is easy. Once you have established a relationship with an organization or cause, you have to tell others. You have to scream it from the top of the social media mountain. Tell others how beautiful time is spent when it is spent on others. This is going to be so natural because the feeling you get from volunteering will be hard to keep quiet. Invite everyone you know to everything you do so they don’t have to go into an organization alone. Be welcoming and helpful to anyone interested. Reach out and follow up, show your fellow twenty-somethings that we can make a difference. Your life will inspire others, it will even inspire you, I am sure of it.
Think about the way you spend your time right now. Watching reruns of Dexter? Checking social media endlessly? Hanging out with friends? Just try to give a few hours a week to someone who really needs it. If we all reached out just a little, we could reach so many people. Start small, start a coat drive at work, clean an apartment for a single mother entering a rehabilitation program, enter a local 5K and raise a few dollars for the cause, pray for those in need or say yes to someone who invites you to volunteer with them.
The world needs us. They need our generation to step up and say “I want to help in any way I can.” People often ask me why I am so invested in giving my time to charities and I often wonder how they can’t be. Yes, I think I help people, I think I touch a few hearts but those people touch me back. Every time someone thanks me for giving my time I immediately thank them for giving me the opportunity to. There is no feeling more satisfying than helping another person and being part of something bigger than yourself, I can only hope that the entire world gets to feel this insane warmth that I feel from volunteering. For once, words do not do the feeling justice. I hope it catches on in everyone’s heart like wildfire, the way it has caught on in mine. Be the good, darlings.
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