This time of year we are reminded to be more compassionate. We are reminded in these times of celebration to think of those who do not have food and shelter. We are encouraged to give money and food to help those around us. Some of us even go out and help deliver the food to those in need. While this is all well and good maintaining a practice of service throughout the year can have far reaching benefits.
Not only will those we work with benefit from our time and energy but we will be able to reap rewards for our self. As Dr. Thomas Plante points out at Psychology Today
After complex statistical analysis, we find that not only are students who help others more compassionate once they return from an immersion service trip and also at follow up, but they also have higher well being and stress management scores too!
The idea that service to others can lower our stress levels and increase our sense of well being is a powerful one. By giving of our selves we help to create a connection with our community and surround ourselves with other people who are working towards the benefit of others. This connection to people who are struggling for change in their lives and the lives of others can even become a source of strength for us.
So the question becomes how do we get started?
The first step is figuring out what you are willing to do. Feeding the homeless is not for everyone but there are plenty of other opportunities to volunteer in our communities.
Once you know what your boundaries are start looking for a cause that is in line with your values and passions. Are you concerned with literacy in your community? There are programs out there teaching people to read. Do you worry about the elderly being lonely? Then help with a visitation program.
The next step is finding a specific organization that you want to work with. There may be a group in your life which you are already a part of that needs help. If that is not the case you can look for your local volunteer center and they can help you find an organization that will be a good fit with you. Another resource is http://www.volunteermatch.org/ a web sight recruiting service for nonprofit organizations.
Once you have chosen and contacted the organization you will be working with the final step is to show up to do the work you have agreed to. It is unfortunate reality of the nonprofit sector that volunteers do not always follow through on their commitments. This happens because they become too distracted with the problems in their own lives and begin to see the commitment they have made to their community as something that can be put on the back burner. When we do this we are thinking of our volunteering as a chore and not an opportunity to share.