Help sign

I hear a lot of whining these days.

“If they want to live here, why can’t they learn English?”

“My neighborhood would be safer if you got rid of those homeless people/drug dealers/sex trade workers/gangs”

“This whole world is polluted”

“Kids don’t know anything about history these days!”

“Why are they releasing that criminal back into the community? They’ll just do it again.”

“Nobody will hire me without job skills!”

“I am bored”

“I’ll never find someone to love”

“I have no passion in my life”

I am sure you have heard similar statements lately.  You might have even said them yourself.

Well I am here to tell you it’s time to cut it out.  You see a problem with the world?  Get in there and help solve it.

All of the scenarios above can be improved or even alleviated through volunteering.  Don’t believe me?

Scenario 1:  English is one of the hardest languages in the world to learn.  Be thankful it is your first language!  You are lucky!  There are many non-profit organizations dedicated to helping newcomers learn and practice speaking English.

Scenario 2: People who live high risk lifestyles often started out as at-risk youth.  Research shows that having a positive adult role model in a young person’s life can drastically change their life path – having a mentor can help guide them in the right direction.  If you want to make a difference in a young person’s life, you can volunteer at Boys and Girls Clubs, Big Brothers Big Sisters, community youth programs, youth shelters, inner city schools and various other locations.  As an alternative, you could focus on helping those people who are already “in trouble” and struggling every day.  There are also many non-profits who focus on adults who are battling addiction or mental illness, facing homelessness, and/or earning income through dangerous means.  See them as people, show them some kindness.  Imagine there is a wounded child within them.  Volunteer to help.

Scenario 3:  There are many environmentally based organizations running all over the world – you can help with clean-up crews, raising money or awareness, helping with specific projects…let your desire for a cleaner environment lead you to volunteering with people who are trying to make things better!

Scenario 4: If you want to keep history alive, volunteer at a museum, archive or school.  Write a play.  Make a website.  Make a documentary.  Volunteer with an inter-generational mentoring program that connects seniors to kids so they can teach each other!

Scenario 5: If someone has made bad choices in the past, the worst thing you can do is simply leave them alone and “hope” they don’t make bad choices in the future.  When people are released from custody, they can either fall back into their old life or try and start a new one.  But if they aren’t connected to any positive people or programs, how can they start fresh?  There are many programs out there who focus on those involved with the justice system – offering supports, classes, mentoring, job training or other opportunities in the community.  Why not help someone turn their life around?

Scenario 6: It is true, people would prefer to hire someone with valuable skills.  Lucky for you, non-profits often need volunteers to help them meet their mandates while keeping costs down!  Pick a group/issue/cause that you are passionate about (You might even want to look at volunteering at places where you might want to work someday!).  Find out if they have a volunteer program and what their current needs are.  You can also look at which jobs match your schedule the best.  Maybe you can help out at fundraising events!  Or you can work directly with their clients!  Or in the office!  Or helping with building maintenance!  By helping them, doing a great job, showing up on time and working hard, they can even give you a reference later!  It’s win-win-win.

Scenario 7: You are bored because you are in a routine and you aren’t doing anything that puts a fire in your belly.  Pick a cause that you care about….or even an interest you have (like sports?  there is a non-profit for that!  love animals? ditto!) and look for places to help out.  It doesn’t have to be much….even as little as an hour or two a week.  Pick a day, make it your volunteer day (quit whining, you can PVR your favorite shows!  Sheesh!) and make it a new part of your routine.  You never know….you may become so passionate you want to help out more….and suddently you will find you aren’t bored anymore because your life has purpose!  Whoo-hoo!

Scenario 8: I am guessing you haven’t found the love of your life because you are looking in all the wrong places.  First thing: pick an organization that matches your values, interests and passion.  Now go volunteer for them.  This will make you a better person – you are giving of yourself for a bigger cause, making the world a better place, not getting paid for it.  This makes you more desirable to other singles (the nice ones, anyways).  And imagine the amazing scenario of actually meeting another volunteer through that organization…..someone who cares about the same causes as you, gives back to the community, helps out not for pay but because it is the right thing to do and they believe in it……you automatically have things in common!  You are not meeting at a bar or through a blind date!  You don’t have to dress up or spend a lot of money or be all pretentious….you can just be yourself!  Pretty sweet deal.

Scenario 9: You have no passion in your life?  Probably because you have been focused on all the wrong things for far too long.  Maybe your life revolves around meeting other people’s needs rather than your own.  Maybe you have been driven by career aspirations that don’t make your heart happy.  Maybe you have been filling your free time with frivolous things.  It is time to sit down, be quiet and decide how you want to make a difference, what is worth fighting for (and if you say “my kids”, then why not look for opportunities for you and your kids to volunteer together?  Think of the lessons they will learn!).  Then go find a way to link those feelings to a volunteer opportunity.  Or, even better….is there something you were once passionate about?  Did you paint?  Sing?  Fix cars?  Play a sport?  Have a hobby?  Why not offer yourself to organizations as a volunteer coach, teacher or workshop leader?

My main point is this – we can save the world and save ourselves by volunteering.

Quit whining.  Start shining.

“Never look down on anybody unless you’re helping them up” – Jesse Jackson