Written by: Brigitte Yuille, volunteer
Volunteering has been a consistent activity throughout my life. However, I never grasped the true benefit of this action until I was an adult.
During my childhood, I volunteered as a Girl Scout to earn Brownie points. These points would help me get to the next level in the Girl Scout league. I volunteered at church in Middle School and throughout High School. My actions didn’t resonant with me then because I was too frustrated with getting up early on Sunday mornings. However, as I helped a young child learn to read, I noticed that I liked helping people. Volunteering soon equated to going to a good college. The more experience I had and community-minded I became the more it improved my chances of going to a top-tier school. So, for a while the activities were done for my personal advancement. It was more about me.
A year after my mother passed away, I had gone through a depression. I felt so alone in my grief. After listening to a sermon, I decided to volunteer. The message simply was that depression can be self-consuming, and to stop hurting it's best to help others. So, I began volunteering at a juvenile detention center for young women. I also did activities at community events. That’s when I discovered something amazing: pure joy. The legendary talk show host Oprah Winfrey describes joy as having a texture. Well, the more I helped the young women at the detention center by guiding them and just chatting the more joy I felt. It was euphoric. I also developed friendships with other people who volunteered. The benefit was meeting people of good character. I learned to stop focusing on what I don’t have; instead, I focused on what I do have. When I volunteer, I share the valuable lessons my parents have taught me; I share what I have learned from having a comfortable childhood, and I share what I have learned from my struggles to help people get past their own.
Today, I make an effort to volunteer as much as I can. I have even developed events dedicated to advancing conversations that can lead to social change. For example, I produced a panel discussion at the Smithsonian during women’s history month as a Women in Film and Video Board member. The conversation addressed gender equality issues in Hollywood and how to resolve them.
One small act of kindness can alter someone’s life for the better and by helping to improve other people’s lives you ultimately help to relieve people of their pain or struggle. Another perk: You can be the change that you want to see in the world.
Happy National Volunteer Appreciation Week!
Become a volunteer: http://www.redcross.org/volunteer/become-a-volunteer#step1