Volunteering is a lot of fun usually. What other job can you think of that lets you pick exactly what you want to do and appreciates the simple fact that you showed up and helped out? This is why I plan to spend a large part of my retirement on volunteering with animals and the elderly. The animals are really cute and I could not think of a worse fate than being lonely in my golden years.
Here's my volunteering history up to this point:
I started volunteering in 5th grade on a regular basis. Back then I cleaned up Galveston beaches and the roads near my neighborhood. In 6th grade I volunteered at the city library and had a great time. In 7th grade I played card games and dominoes with the residents of the local senior citizen's home and should have stayed longer. In 8th grade I stupidly picked to help out with the county's historical museum (can anybody say "use that kid for filing"...sheesh). I really enjoyed helping out, but then we moved to Holland in 9th grade and I shut down.
Depression is a weird thing. I knew I didn't feel right, but I didn't really want to feel better either. I just wanted to sleep and listen to music and ignore everything around me. It took me a couple of months to peek out from my room and try to enjoy Europe while we were there. Within 7 months we were packing again and moved to Argentina for 2 1/2 years.
After a year or so, I befriended my little sister's English teacher who ran her own English learning center. I started volunteering as an English instructor for 6 and 7 year-olds until we moved back home. You never respect teachers more than when you decide to teach a second language to kids that barely just learned their first one! I also realized that I was a lot less moody when I was involved with others.
After we got back to Texas, I once again fell off the volunteering wagon and went to college for 4 years. I had 2 or 3 part-time jobs the whole time so I just couldn't bring myself to find enough time to fit in helping others long-term. I volunteered for a few clean ups and that was about it.
Then I was a graduate and started my first full-time job. All of the sudden, I had extra time again. I discovered the Houston SPCA and started volunteering in the big dog section...they seemed the most lonely since puppies get all the attention. I never told my husband, but we came very close to owning about 20 dogs that first month...including a 120 pound Mastiff "puppy" that just might have fit in our 550 square foot apartment...
We lived close so I could work 20-25 hours a week pretty easily for that 6 months, but then we moved 45 minutes away to our new house. Now I only help answer phones for their telethons.
Since I still wanted to help and we were looking for a second dog, I became a foster parent for Pughearts: Houston Pug Rescue. For another 6 months I fostered and helped find a home for 10 Pugs and adopted our own Pug early on. When my husband started graduate school, we took a fostering break, but I hope to restart this fall. It helps that my allergy-ridden Pug feels better and probably wouldn't mind some company at this point since our Dachshund-mutt actively ignores him whenever possible. :-)
In short, volunteering is a necessary part of my life. I feel blah whenever too much time passes...it's like a mild addiction. My plans for the future are to get involved with Meals on Wheels since I do miss spending time with the elderly. Those guys have the best stories and sincerely appreciate a good conversation. I never made anybody happier than when I gave a 95 year old woman the first manicure she had been given in almost 25 years.
Do you have any volunteer stories to share? What organizations tug at your heart strings? If you haven't volunteered, I'd suggest trying it at least once...the people or animals or whatever that you help are not the only ones that feel better. :-)
4 days ago