I have lived in a volunteer culture since I was born. Both of my parents volunteered when I was young - and encouraged me to participate in community life. Dad was leader of the local boy scouts - and my brother and I were in Cubs and Brownies. Dad also coached the kids hockey even though he couldn't skate! I remember him shuffling around the ice in his boots! Mom watched over the neighbourhood kids, contributed to bake sales and worked with local women's groups.
My parents are now in their 80's and they still volunteer. They visit people in old age homes - which I find hilarious! Mom volunteers in the hospital Gift Shop and Cafeteria and spends half days at the Food Bank. They only just recently stopped working for the Vincent dePaul Society which offers financial assistance to those who need it.
All this is just going to say that when people ask for help - it is a natural response for me to say 'yes'. The volunteer work I have done in my life has been more related to the arts than to the poor but I don't think that makes it less valuable. How we deal with our weakest members and how we communicate creatively are the two cornerstones of culture. My volunteer work has ranged from performances in theatre and music, building sets, organising community events and art exhibitions (sometimes on an International scale), writing newsletters, building websites and much much more. Mostly I don't think of these projects as 'volunteer' work because they have contributed so much to my life. As someone with the privilege of doing work that I love - I think of most things that I do as just part of my life. Enriching parts of my life! I have learned more about running a successful arts business through volunteering than in any other way. It has helped me make connections that have been stronger and more important than any other networking I do.
"The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers."
I believe that we grow as persons equally from conflicts and friendships - and how we deal with people that we don't agree with and don't necessarily have much in common with is the real test of our mettle. In an increasingly virtual world where hardly any communication has to happen face to face we are less and less able to really listen and respond. I believe that if we allow this internal isolation, avoiding conflict or barrelling over other's concerns, we lose a little of our humanity.
Though people crave community we are increasingly loosing the skills that are necessary to build it. In fact I think that this is why democracy is beginning to fail us - we don't participate! Community only happens with everyone's active engagement.
So join up! Pitch in! You won't regret it!
I am currently serving as Communications officer for the Metal Arts Guild of Canada.