Last week I turned in my volunteer badge and finished another volunteer position. After nine months of playing with the hospitalized children and cuddling babies, leaving was bittersweet. While I’m excited to start my internship next fall, I am going to miss being an inpatient volunteer.
Organizations are often so thankful for their volunteers. They say that they couldn’t do what they do without their volunteers. Their volunteers are the most important part of their group. Speaking as a volunteer, I want to thank the groups that have allowed me to volunteer for them.
If I could, I would just volunteer for the rest of my life and not get a paying job. Because I was not left a multi-million dollar trust fund, I am going to have to get a job eventually. But I don’t think that I will ever stop volunteering, because it’s honestly the best job I’ve ever had. Knowing that I am playing a part in making a difference in someone else’s life is one of the best feelings in the world.
There are numerous health benefits associated with volunteering. The Corporation for National and Community Service published a review of recent research about these health benefits. You can read all 20 pages here. In short, volunteers have better physical and mental health. In the introduction to this research, volunteers are reported to have “lower mortality rates.” So thank you to my volunteer supervisor for keeping me alive!
One of the joys of volunteering is being able to do tasks that employees don’t have time for. In the past, this has meant cleaning toys, labeling them, running errands or delivering messages. Why do I enjoy this? Someone has to do these tasks and although they aren’t the most glamorous part of the volunteer position, they are necessary. By cleaning the toys, it means the child life specialists have more time to dedicate to their patients. By running errands around the ER, staff can focus on caring for their patients.
There is minimal pressure or stress as a volunteer. It’s just a time to be present. You can be present to the survivor of trauma that you are supporting, you can play with your campers at summer camp, or you can cuddle babies who are alone and each of those are your only task. As a volunteer, you don’t have a long To Do list waiting for you to finish. Your job is to be present for those who need you, to listen and support. Your role is to take each task as the most important task and focus all your time and energy on that one person that needs you.
Going to a volunteer job is an opportunity to take a break from the crazy and hectic lives that we all live. I think that almost everyone is always being pulled a million different directions. When you show up as your volunteer appointment, you can put away and phone and stop worrying about everything you need to do when you return home. You can relax and spend time with others who need you. It’s a chance to love people for who they are and sit with them in their pain and their joy.
I want to finish by saying thank you to all my past volunteer supervisors and those that I will work with in the future. Thank you for giving me an opportunity to grow as a person! Thank you for giving me a chance to love and serve others! Thank you for letting me help you care for those in need! Thank you for inspiring me by the work you do! Thank you for opening the doors to new opportunities! I don’t think that either of us will know the full impact that my volunteer position with you had on my life, but I do know that I have grown as a person since volunteering with you. And I firmly believe that every life experience affects us, so thank you for having such a positive influence on my future.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
– Maya Angelou