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Simple Ways to Give Back and Help Others Starting Today

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” ~Winston Churchill

Thirty-plus years ago, when I was applying to college, one of my friends used to say regularly, “We’ve gotta get involved with more extra-currics.”

He was talking about extracurricular activities. His (and our) interest was to build our “resumes” to enhance our attractiveness to college admissions officers.

Today, kids are building their resumes at younger and younger ages, and that’s a good thing. Even if their parents have an eye on enhanced college applications, there is a huge benefit to involving young people in community service. For those kids, adult involvement in community service will come naturally.

For me, community service came later in life.

When I was starting my career, I remember hoping to one day be wealthy so that I could donate huge amounts to charitable organizations. Fortunately, rather than waiting for “someday” to come, I learned how much of a difference I could make by donating time and energy to good causes and people in need.

I’ve gotten involved in many activities in my community, and it has been an extremely enjoyable and fulfilling experience.

There are many benefits that come from giving of yourself.

One of my daughters, just before she graduated from high school, was asked to answer an essay question: “What advice you give to an incoming high school freshman?”

Among other things, she suggested that they get involved in clubs, teams, and community service activities, and among the benefits she listed was the opportunity to meet and interact with people who you would otherwise not get to know.

The same thing applies to volunteering. You can also use volunteering time to spend more time with your family and friends if you arrange to volunteer together.

Volunteering is proven to be good for your health and your happiness. Studies have shown that people who volunteer live longer.

Volunteering is also a great tool in the fight against depression because it’s easier to temporarily forget about your own problems when you shift your focus to helping others.

After a recent speaking engagement, a woman came to me and said, “I’m recently widowed, I’m retiring soon, and I hope to implement some of your ideas to be happier. My big challenge is what I’m going to do with my time.”

I told her to commit some time to volunteering—that it would get her out with other people, which would help her well-being, and that she’d enjoy the gratification that comes from helping others. She walked away excited about my suggestion.

Following your passion is key.

You’ve probably read about families who’ve been impacted by certain diseases and created a charity to help cure those diseases. Those families are passionate about finding a cure. They want something good to come out of their tragic loss, in memory of their beloved family member.

Are there particular causes that are important to you? You need to be happy with what you’re doing and to work in an area where you have ability.

If you are passionate about children, for example, find an organization that helps them. If you want to work directly with children, make sure to do that. If you’d rather work behind the scenes, and your skills go in that direction, follow that instinct.

If you are not happy, don’t be reluctant to make a change. It’s not selfish to change. You will be of greatest service to the world if you spend time doing things you enjoy, that you are good at.

Like every other change you want to make in your life, start slow.

Don’t do too much, too fast. It’s easy to get caught up and soon find yourself in over your head in terms of the type of work you are doing or the time commitment. If you volunteer for too many things, or give too much time too soon, the endeavor will have backfired for you and the organizations you’re helping.

Those organizations are always looking for help and it’s up to you to tell them where you need to draw the line. Remember: you can always add more time as you get used to making time for these activities in your schedule.

At the same time, it’s good to jump in with a “just do it” spirit.

Making a commitment may be the best way to make volunteering a part of your busy schedule. Otherwise, you’re likely to say, “I would love to, but I’m too busy.”

For example, this spring I committed to a program to play baseball every Saturday morning with kids with special needs. Because I made the commitment, I made it work in my schedule.

We’re all busy with the things that we decide are priorities for us. If you make a commitment, then it instantly becomes a priority, and that is probably the best way to get started.

It’s easier than ever to find ways to be of service.

  • If you are a member of a church, synagogue, or other religious organization, ask there.
  • Ask your friends what they do.
  • If you practice yoga, ask your yoga instructor. At the risk of stereotyping (though a positive stereotype,) every yoga instructor I’ve met has been involved in service activities.
  • And so much more—just start Googling!

There are many ways to get involved. You could:

  • Donate clothing, furniture, and other possessions to those in need. (Side benefit: You will declutter your house/apartment.)
  • Set up a collection program at your office for money and non-perishables. (Make sure you thank everyone each time you write a check from the program to charity, or deliver the filled bucket to the local pantry.)
  • Ride in bike-a-thons, run or walk in 5Ks, or if you’re an ambitious athlete, participate in marathons and triathlons.
  • Volunteer to help with bike-a-thons, 5Ks, etc. They always need volunteers the day of the event at registrations tables and more.
  • Volunteer at a soup kitchen/homeless shelter.
  • Teach English as a second language as a literacy volunteer, or as a first language to kids or grown-ups who need help.
  • Tutor kids in math or any other subject.
  • And so much more—once again, check Google!

And here are some ideas you might not think of, despite the fact that you are a reader of blogs:

  • Write a personal development blog and/or write guest posts on others’ personal development blogs.
  • Comment on blog posts. Your experiences will help others when they find themselves in similar circumstances.
  • Write a book. It’s not necessarily easy to write a book, but if you can, it’s particularly easy to self-publish an e-book.

I recognize who I’m talking to today. Once again, I’ll make a positive stereotype by saying that we, the readers of this blog, are enlightened individuals. As such, I want to say this: If I’m preaching to the choir about community service and volunteerism, that’s okay. In fact, it’s a good thing.

As I recently heard said (by a politician, of all people), if you preach to the choir, they will sing, and I want us to sing. I want you to tell everyone you know about the importance, and benefit, of giving to others.

And now I’ve added yet another way you can help others—by spreading the word to other potential volunteers. You can start by commenting on this post.

What has your experience been?

What are some activities you’ve been involved with? How have you benefited by your involvement?

Photo by Siena College


Lori’s Note: If you didn’t already, enter the giveaway for Allan Lokos’ book Patience: The Art of Peaceful Living by leaving a comment on the blog post!

Announcement: Wish you could change your past? Learn to let go and create a life you love with the Tiny Buddha course!
  • Suzshansahbinah

    This was a great post. I wholly believe in community service and giving back in anyway one can. However, I had a difficult time with it when it became a “requirement” for graduation for my son’s senior civics class. I believe making it a requirement completely takes away the whole point of volunteering. The kids were given a list of “volunteering” options, including things like working the snack bar at the school’s sporting events. I felt like a better option would have been for the class to choose a community service project to embark on together from brainstorming a meaningful contribution, how to implement it and delivering it either as a gift to the school or community as their final senior class act. I know my son would have gotten more out of an endeavor such as this than just checking off 20 hours of service from a list.

  • http://www.sixsimplerules.com/ David Singer/SixSimpleRules

    Agreed! I like your idea much better. Make your gift to the community by sending in that suggestion to the school — it’s a great one. Thanks for the note. David

  • http://www.facebook.com/jeff.mcandrews Jeff McAndrews

    My best friend is the Volunteer Coordinator for the Salvation Army in my community.  After a few months of badgering me into volunteering I finally decided to give it a try and help out at one of the community breakfasts that take place every Saturday morning.

    It’s been one of the most simplest, but rewarding experiences of my life.  The first breakfast I volunteered at served meals to over 80 individuals.  Most of these people were homeless or down on their luck, some I’m sure were only going to have this breakfast as a meal for the entire day.

    While preparing and serving I was super busy and just went from one task to the next, but then while drying dishes during the clean-up I felt it.  What was it?  JOY!  Pure joy from within, that surfaced from doing something selfless. 

    It was the most amazing feeling to give without expecting anything in return.  I’m hooked on volunteering at these monthly events and have signed on to help out on a monthly basis. 

     

  • http://www.sixsimplerules.com/ David Singer/SixSimpleRules

    Jeff:

    That’s quite a powerful story. I actually got a bit choked up reading it. Thanks for sharing that important message with everyone who is going to read it here.

    Best regards,

    David

  • http://glorisurban.com/ Glori Surban

    This post brought back memories of my college days when I’ve been volunteering left and right. You’re absolutely right when you said not to do much too fast because now i feel like I’ve done enough.

    You know, “I’ve been there, done that.”

    I feel like I’ve gotten jaded and no longer have the drive to volunteer.  Another thing is that I’m an introvert and most volunteer activities are done in groups so I tend to avoid those. It was easier during college because I know who I was volunteering with.

    To be honest, I envy people who feel that sense of satisfaction when or after they volunteer. I guess I was introduced to the wrong concept of volunteerism. It was more of a “forced” volunteerism in college btw, so I tend to avoid it. (Yeah, there’s such a thing because the teachers would check your attendance…lol)

    For once I may just try to volunteer because I believe in a cause and not because someone going to check if I’m present.

  • new social network

    Good activity!

  • http://www.sixsimplerules.com/ David Singer/SixSimpleRules

    Glori:
    Very interesting. It should be nice for you to get involved on your terms. Good luck with that.
    Best regards,
    David

  • Rosalind Wilson

    Life is a Caberet oh boy….I am a lady in my mid 70s and when my husband passed away 2007 my life became a series of one TV program after another. I eventually got my butt out of my recliner and walked into the Humane Society thrift store. I happily volunteered there for 5 years. I have since then joined up with a no kill org. that rescues dogs, vets them, puts them into foster care and socializes them before placing them into forever homes. We also do low cost spaying and nuetering. I am in their thrift store. I love arranging merchandize and finding creative ways to display our goods. I have not been this physically active along with feeling so alive and connected to something so meaningful. I just love the women I work with. Once or twice a month we get together and go out to lunch. We are a wonderful support system and source of joy to each other. We do make such a joyful noise when we all congregate. Some of the women from the other thrift store I worked at are a part of this group of terrific ladies. I have found my passion! It is saving the animals. I also am involved with PETA & Care 2 and other petition sites that fight against any kind of animal abuse. My life has never been this full. Ladies & Gents…retirees, get off your duffs and turn off the TV. We need volunteers to get involved. You’d be amazed at what you can do! It keeps your mind active and always growing. You will never be lonely, get involved. Shalom.

  • Rosalind Wilson

    Hi Glori, There are so many slots that need to be filled. You say you are an introvert. Many volunteer jobs can be activities you can do by being in the background. In the thrift shop that I volunteer at, we have a work room where the donations are checked to make sure they are in good salable condition. The woman who does that job is the sorter. We also have people who price articles. They are in the work room, they enjoy the privacy. There are also many orgs out there that can use people to get the word out about animal & human abuse and post their petitions. If you have a  computer you can get involved. I’m positive that you have many ‘gifts’ and you’d be surprised at the ones you didn’t know you had. Shalom, Glori.  

  • http://www.sixsimplerules.com/ David Singer/SixSimpleRules

    Rosalind:
    Fantastic message. Wonderful.
    Thanks for sharing this with everyone, and for your specific suggestions to Glori, below, as well.
    Best regards,
    David

  • Shweta wagaralkar

    hi..i totally loved what you said. Ive always wanted to volunteer but i kept postponing it citing  lack of time..and now im going to make sure that i make time and do my bit. Kudos to you for spreading this message across the globe. Best of luck. :)

  • http://www.sixsimplerules.com/ David Singer/SixSimpleRules

    Shweta:
    Thank you so much for the wonderful note!
    Best regards, David

  • http://www.facebook.com/moisant2 John Moisant

    I found this article encouraging. I like the singing choir note :)

  • anniessa williamd

    so lovely

  • Sheila

    I dont have much, barely enough to get by on, so I give what I have-Time! I foster birds for an animal rescue organisation and volunteer with the lung association-best things I ever did were volunteer. It truly fills up your life. Id donate too, if I could afford it. Maybe someday when I’m making money again, Ill give back financially. For now, I find my happiness in giving my time. :)

  • tinybuddha

    Hi Sheila,

    I just saw your comment, and I thought you might like to know about the Tiny Buddha forum named “Projects That Need Support.” This could be a great place to share/link to your fundraiser campaign.

    If you’re not already a forum member, you can register for free here:

    http://tinybuddha.com/register

    Then you can find that forum category here:

    http://tinybuddha.com/forum/projects-that-need-support/

    I hope the campaign is a huge success!

    Lori

  • Reighn
  • Minee

    I loved the post as I like helping people in my daily life.I never went out looking for it but just accepted that people need help and are sometimes not asking for it.I offer help when i see i can help them .I came to this post looking for opportunities to give aid in any way i can.
    I went through a lot in life and life has taught me that anything can happen any time and one is never ready for tougher times.At that point we need people around us to hold us and hug us and support us. I keep thanking the Energy around me which made me open enough to accept help. I pray I am thrown in the situations where people need my help and pray to give me the energy to help them. Thank you for putting up posts like this and encouraging others and go ahead and share your passion to support the community.Minee

  • richard valdez

    this is a great way to get people to open there mind to be able to help the world develop as on community instead of different types i also share the yearn to help connect with outher people in there community as well as around the world for example my blog http://need2talk2someon.blogspot.com/2014/03/intro-must-read.html which is an open email submission help line.