“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” -Mahatma Ghandi
When I was looking for a way to volunteer years ago I spent a lot of time researching the organizations in my town. It was an overwhelming process because there were a lot of organizations out there that needed help. One day it hit me that I was trying to fit myself into the organizations I was researching—rather than trying to fit one of them with me. I stopped looking outside and starting looking inside. Sitting down with my journal I asked myself four questions:
What brings me joy? Music, spending time with others, writing
What breaks my heart? Others in pain
What softens me? Connecting with others one on one
What skills do I have that would be useful to another? Sing and play guitar, good listener
Answering these questions helped me to narrow down my search to volunteer positions where I could help people who are in pain through listening, connecting and music.
Playing music for patients in the hospital had crossed my mind a dozen or so times, but I have to admit, I was too scared to do anything about it. Various questions haunted me: Could I handle being around people who are in pain? Could I handle being alone in a room with someone I don’t know who is at such a vulnerable point in their lives? I decided to call the local hospital to ask them if they had musicians playing for patients. Although they didn’t at the time, they were open to the idea. Within a few months, the volunteer coordinator and I had developed the Music and Healing program.
Volunteering at the hospital has taught me so much about compassion, tenderness, and gratitude. Although I didn’t expect to receive anything from volunteering I have been given these gifts and so much more—like reduced stress, confidence and a deep sense of purpose.
If you are new to volunteering or have been a volunteer and are looking to change things up you might ask yourself the questions listed above and these below:
- How much time do I have to volunteer?
- Do I want to be inside or outside?
- Do I want to work individually or with a group?
- Do I want to help people, animals or the planet?
Check out these great articles on the many benefits of volunteering including health benefits:
- The Benefits of Volunteering – The Huffington Post
- Volunteering Reduces the Risk of Heart Disease and Improves Physical Wellbeing – DailyMail.com