Everywhere you look, people are doing something to help others. Round of applause. Standing ovation. High-five! On one hand, it’s awesome that so many people are lending a hand. On the other, it can be saddening to know that so many people need assistance. What can’t be disputed are the rewards you receive from giving back, if it’s done for the right reasons.
I’ve been involved in community service since my childhood. As a Girl Scout and member of my home church’s youth group, we were often out and about serving in a variety of capacities: volunteering at nursing homes, feeding at homeless shelters, delivering Christmas baskets to first responders, Spring clean ups, clothing and food drives and assisting seniors at their homes. I vividly remember being excited when service projects would arise. Not only was I getting to spend time with my friends, but I was able to make a difference.
I don’t think I fully grasped, at the time, the impact we were having, but I knew I enjoyed helping. I was raised in a house with my grandparents where I often assisted them with multiple activities. I was often summoned to neighbor’s houses to help perform various tasks. While it sometimes cut into my playtime with friends, I didn’t mind because I liked spending time with our neighbors and they didn’t mind if I brought my friends along to help. The more hands, the faster we could get things done. I had a strategy!
As an adult, I still love to help. It comes naturally for me. It’s always been a major part of who I am and I’m appreciative of everyone who cultivated this core characteristic. There’s something I’ve noticed as I’ve gotten older – helping can sometimes feel like it’s getting in the way of other things that are screaming for my attention.
Let me explain.
We have so many responsibilities as women. Our to-do list is never ending. There’s always something that needs to be done that presents itself as urgent. The longer an item stays on your list, the more urgent it becomes. It’s like lingering items glare at you until you’re able to put a check mark beside them.
Due to the strains of taking care of the necessities, giving back can sometimes feel like a nuisance. It can feel like a chore instead of something you enjoy. It can feel like a burden instead of something that provides fulfillment. It can feel like you’re wasting time instead of using your time for the betterment of society.
The process of giving back encompasses a wide range of opportunities: being active at your church, serving on community and nonprofit boards, attending local school events, visiting the elderly, and dropping homemade gifts off at hospitals. There are a wide range of activities that fall under the category of giving back.
Giving back should be a time when you’re performing an activity without expectations of anything in return. Volunteer time is the time to remind ourselves that even though there are other things that could our attention, there are people in need who need our time more. It’s a time to set aside all the things that can bring stress and focus on an activity that only requires only our willingness to lend a helping hand.
When benefiting from my love in action, I experience a heightened sense of confirmation that I’m right where I should be. The thank yous, hugs and smiles from those who are being served remind me how important it is to stay grounded. They remind me how important it is to not be so wrapped up in myself that I can’t help anyone else. They remind me how we all need people. And I always leave feeling better than I arrived.
Never allow giving back to become a burden. It should be uplifting, encouraging and make you want to continue to be the best you that you can be. Find a place where your talents can be utilized and leave your to-do list at home.